Protecting Your Long-Term Disability Benefits
Are you receiving long-term disability benefits? Do you feel as if someone is watching you? If so, you might be right. The long-term disability insurance company may be using surveillance to gather evidence to deny or stop disability benefits.
Is using surveillance illegal? No, not unless the insurance company or investigator breaks the law. Generally, a party can conduct surveillance in a public location and in places where you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
For example, the insurance company could send an investigator to surveil you at an amusement park or the mall because those places are public. You would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in these locations. For most people, being in their front yard may not result in a reasonable expectation of privacy because they know someone can see them from the street. However, being inside your home creates a different situation. You have the right to expect privacy in your home.
Is using surveillance to investigate disabled individuals ethical? The answer to that question is aggressively debated by opponents and proponents of using surveillance to gather evidence for long-term disability claims.
Whether it is ethical or legal, insurance companies employ surveillance tactics to investigate long-term disability insurance applicants and recipients. If you are concerned, contact our long-term disability lawyers at 816-203-0143. We have seen all of the insurance tactics you can imagine, and we know how to fight those tactics to protect your right to long-term disability benefits.
Why Would an Insurance Provider Surveil Me?
Profits. That is the main reason that any insurance company surveils someone. The insurance company is trying to discover evidence it can use to deny or stop paying long-term disability benefits.
Insurance companies often use surveillance when a claim involves chronic pain, emotional disorders, or other subjective symptoms. Many disabling conditions are proven through diagnostic testing, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, and blood tests. However, other disabling conditions are based on the individual’s reported symptoms.
Many insurance companies approach cases believing that the individual is “faking” their injury or exaggerating their symptoms. Surveillance is the way that the insurance company attempts to gather evidence to discredit the person’s claims.
A photograph or video of someone changing a tire, playing outside with their child, going bowling, or even going to the grocery store can give the insurance company a reason to argue you are not disabled from work. If your long-term disability insurance company requests an independent medical examination (IME), asks to meet with you in your home, or requests a functional capacity evaluation, it is safe to assume you are under surveillance.
Types of Surveillance by Long-Term Disability Insurance Companies
Your long-term disability insurance company may use one or more surveillance techniques to gather evidence. Never assume that the insurance provider is not surveilling you because you do not notice a stranger or a strange vehicle around your neighborhood.
Types of long term-disability surveillance techniques used to gather evidence in an long-term disability case include:
Physical surveillance is a common form of surveillance. An investigator takes photographs or videos of you in various locations. He may follow you to the grocery store or your child’s little league game. The investigator may keep you under surveillance for several days or weeks. In some cases, the surveillance could continue for a few months.
Social Media Surveillance
A skilled and trained “hacker” could be monitoring your social media accounts. The person may send you a friend request or send your family and followers friend requests. The person is searching for photographs, videos, tags, posts, and comments that may be taken out of context to argue you are not disabled.
An innocent picture of you at a birthday party could be used to argue that the pain you claim prevents you from working does not prevent you from attending social events. Some photographs may show you as happy and joyous but have no actual context. These posts can leave you open to attack by the insurance company.
Background Checks and Internet Searches
An investigator for the insurance company may conduct a thorough background check. He wants to find out about your previous jobs, who you live with, what professional licenses you held, and what activities you used to enjoy.
He may also conduct extensive internet searches to discover blog posts, comments to online articles, business web pages, personal web pages, content about you, or photographs of you. There may be more information about you on the internet than you know.
Home Visits or Field Visits
An insurance representative may request a visit to your home. The person may say the visit is just to check on you and ensure that you have everything you need. However, that person could be an investigator. The true purpose of the visit is to gain information and evidence the insurance company could use to argue that you are not disabled.
For example, you live alone, but you have gym equipment in your living room. The insurance representative jokes that you must love working out. You joke around about how much you love working up a sweat. Does it matter that you are keeping it for a family member or friend and never touch the equipment? No, because the insurance company will paint a much different picture.
Even if there is nothing obvious in your home that could indicate you are not disabled and you are careful what you say, the investigator is watching every move you make. He is analyzing your home with critical eyes to find anything the company could use to argue you are not disabled.
How an LTD Insurance Company Uses Surveillance Materials
The insurance company could stop your disability benefits, which means you would need to appeal and fight to prove your benefits were wrongfully terminated.
The company may also send the surveillance materials to the doctor who will perform your IME (independent medical examination). The purpose is to cause bias on the party of the doctor conducting the exam. The doctor may conduct the examination from a different perspective after seeing photographs, videos, and other evidence taken out of context.
Protect Yourself from Surveillance by Long-Term Disability Insurance Companies
You may not be able to stop an long-term disability insurance company from conducting surveillance, but there are things you can do to protect yourself:
- Set all social media privacy settings to the highest level
- Avoid posting or commenting on public pages
- Do not post pictures or videos of yourself online
- Turn off tagging and sharing functions on social media accounts
- Live within the restrictions and limitations ordered by your physician
- Warn family members and friends that if anyone tries to talk to them about you, to not answer any questions and tell you immediately
- Do not accept new friend requests or followers on social media
If you believe you are under surveillance, contact our long-term disability attorney immediately. The steps you take right now could significantly impact whether you receive long-term disability benefits.
Get Help From Our Long-Term Disability Lawyers
Our Kansas City long-term disability attorney at the Law Office of Kevin J. McManus is familiar with insurance company surveillance techniques. We are also familiar with the tactics used by long-term disability insurance companies to avoid paying disability benefits.
If you have been denied long-term disability, call us at 816-203-0143 or fill out our online contact form. We will review your denial letter for free and provide a strategy on how to appeal your denial.