When you or a loved one is hurt at work, the insurance company may hire an investigator to conduct surveillance. Surveillance is when a person videotapes you in the hope that you will do something that could later be used against you at trial. This could include doing or lifting something that is outside of your work restrictions or doing something that you have told your medical providers that you can no longer do. As you can imagine, if you tell someone one thing and the insurance company has you on video doing something else, then your credibility can be damaged. In an Iowa workers' compensation case your credibility is very important and damaging it can cost you thousands of dollars, your job, or even worse.
When Does the Insurance Company Conduct Surveillance and How Do They Do It?
It is most common to be videotaped while you are at your home. The investigator will often be parked down the street in a car or van with tinted windows. You or your neighbors may notice a strange car in the neighborhood, which could be an investigator conducting surveillance on you. The investigator is looking for you to be outside doing things that may negatively affect your case, depending on your injuries, such as: lifting heavy items, chopping wood, carrying heavy things, etc. Sometimes they will also videotape you going into and leaving your medical appointments. We have seen many cases where an investigator videotapes an injured worker walking in order to prove the person doesn't really limp or use a cane. So if you tell your doctors that you use a cane, you should use one.
Can Surveillance Hurt My Case?
Unfortunately, even if you are being 100% honest, surveillance can still hurt your case. When a judge watches the video after the trial, he or she may not remember that you testified the cooler that you were lifting while camping was empty. The judge may also see you drinking beer with friends at a campfire, which can hurt the value of your case. No, this may not be fair, but insurance companies do not have to play fair. However, following some of the recommendations in this article can help reduce the chances that surveillance will cost you thousands of dollars.
So How Do I Deal With Surveillance?
The best thing to do is to be honest with your medical providers and to only do things that are within your medical restrictions. If you question whether you should do a certain activity, then you should speak with your medical provider specifically about the activity. For one reason, you do not want to reinjure yourself and, second, you do not want to be videotaped doing an activity that a doctor later says was outside of your restrictions. Another thing you can do is call the police if you suspect there is someone in your neighborhood conducting surveillance. Iowa does have laws against stalking and if you call the police and tell them there is a strange car in the neighborhood and you are concerned about what they are up to (perhaps they are looking to kidnap someone, etc.), the police will most likely go and talk to the person. Often this is enough to have the insurance company investigator go away, but not always.
To learn more, including the 7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid if You are Hurt at Work, order a copy of my free book entitled Iowa Workers’ Compensation - An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries. Why offer a free book? I have represented hundreds of Iowans hurt at work and have seen too many clients make mistakes before they had the “right” information, resulting in them losing thousands of dollars. With this book, you can learn about work injuries in the comfort of your own home with no risk or obligation. To order the book, call now 641-792-3595 or request a copy online.