Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me…
When you are receiving short or long term disability benefits, or if you have applied for disability benefits, chances are the insurance company will do some investigation of your claim. Some types of investigation you will expect: they might ask to collect your medical records, or request permission to speak to your doctor.
Am I being followed? But insurers are too wily to stop there. They can also have a surveillance company follow you on foot or in a car, take pictures or videotape your activities, and report back. The surveillance company will try to catch you doing something you have claimed you cannot do. You have a back injury, but here you are shoveling snow. Or you have a disabling neck injury, but they discovered you water-skiing. You have chronic fatigue, but they caught you taking rock climbing lessons.
Surveillance can be harmful to your disability claim without your activities being so obviously inconsistent with your disabilities. Video may simply show you acting more able than your medical condition may suggest – for example, you have an anxiety disorder, but the surveillance team has you on tape at the mall. This may not be inconsistent with your doctor’s recommendations; in fact your doctor may have suggested you challenge your limitations. But for someone looking for evidence that you are exaggerating your disability, this may be all the ammunition he or she needs to begin a full investigation into your file to find more evidence to support terminating your benefits.
Who is checking out your Facebook? More and more, insurers are doing internet investigation. An insurance company may do anything from Googling your name, checking public databases for any information on you, and checking the online social media sites you participate in to see what comments, pictures, updates, or other information you are posting. Many times when we look through a claim file, we see printouts from the client’s Facebook profile, status updates, pictures from a blog, or comments the client has made online. These can be used as evidence of you participating in activities you have said you cannot do. This information could also be used to prove you can work – the insurer will argue if you have the ability to coherently rant about your friends political views, there are many other jobs you could potentially do. This is particularly true in cases where you are claiming mental impairments that make it impossible for you to think clearly and concentrate on work. If you can interact, socialize, and communicate effectively online, an argument can be made that you could function in a workplace.
What should I do? You should always follow your doctor’s orders, and should not purposefully change your activities simply because the insurance company may be watching. Just be aware that your activities are under scrutiny, and do not be surprised if an insurer undertakes surveillance on you at one time or another during the life of your claim. If you are denied benefits or have your disability benefits terminated, and want more information on what to do next, check out our previous blog post at http://erisadvocate.blogspot.com/2012/11/what-to-do-if-youre-disability-benefits.html or contact us at the Law Office of Katherine L. MacKinnon: www.katemackinnon.com.