Today’s post comes from respected colleague Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. Unfortunately, being followed by a private investigator is also very common in Nebraska and Iowa. Attorneys at our firm give clients specific instructions about dealing with private investigators, as should most attorneys that work with personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. I recently saw this blog post from www.workerscompensation.com that gives employers that hire private investigators tips on being more effective at catching someone “violating their medical restrictions by shoveling out their driveways or partaking in a winter recreational sport.” And although there probably isn’t much skiing going on in our part of the Great Plains, it bears in mind that a private investigator may see someone being active but won’t know the ramifications of that activity upon that person for the next few days, like cutting back on doctor-approved activity because of soreness. So be sure to follow the restrictions laid out by your doctor to make the private investigator’s job that much harder!
As a workers’ compensation attorney I find it interesting that many people in the public question the disability status of injured workers. Let’s assume for the moment that you have sustained an injury on the job and you’ve been out of work for 5 months after back surgery. When you are unable to return to work quickly, the insurance industry has a lot of tools at its disposal to verify your disability status. They can pour over your medical records, pre- and post-injury, looking for any piece of evidence to deny your claim. They can send your file to lawyers who review medical records and recorded statements to potentially attack your credibility and honesty. They can hire a nurse to attend your appointments and speak with the physician and the staff, as well as obtain information directly from you. They can do background searches on you to see if you have a criminal or civil record. Obviously they will check to see if you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim before. They will also do social media and Internet searches on you and your family members (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). They also can hire private investigators to follow you and your family around and take video recordings of your activities. With all these resources at the disposal of the insurance company, it’s hard to believe that many cases of employee fraud slip through the system.
A private investigator pretended to be a potential buyer and spent an hour or more going through the house.
We have one client recently who was followed by several private detectives for more than a year. They not only followed him around, but also followed his wife and son, who have no workers’ compensation claim. Another client had to sell his house because of his disability. A private investigator pretended to be a potential buyer and spent an hour or more going through the house. Does the concept of “Big Brother” come to mind? Are you concerned about invasion of privacy, particularly for family members, friends, and others who may be seen in such videos? We always tell our clients such activity may occur so don’t be alarmed by it, but that isn’t too comforting to people who are struggling through health issues, who have depression and anxiety problems, and who are sensitive to privacy concerns.
It would be interesting if the roles were reversed and employers who underpay premiums by misclassifying the status of their employees, who fail to purchase insurance required to protect their workers, and who don’t follow proper safety regulations that cause injury, were followed this closely by employees or regulators who administer the workers’ compensation program. I have no doubt that these employers and insurance representatives would be outraged.