Have you ever felt like you were being watched, or maybe even followed? It may seem like something that only happens in movies, but, you may have been right. This is especially true if you have recently filed for long-term disability (LTD) benefits.
The use of surveillance during an LTD claim is more common than most tend to think. If an insurance company believes you may be exaggerating your claim, they will look for ways to disprove the severity of your disability. Often, an insurance company will hire a private investigator in this instance to gather pictures or video footage to be used as evidence against your LTD claim.
How Often Do Insurance Companies Use Surveillance?
There is no precise answer to how often insurance companies use surveillance as there is no way of fully knowing if they will or will not use it in your case. In our experience, we have estimated that surveillance is used about 1/2 of the time during an LTD case. There are times, however, that we know you are more likely to be surveilled.
At the beginning of your case, it’s common that your insurance company will conduct LTD claim surveillance. This is especially true if you have said you are housebound or not working. Sending someone to check if this is true does not require many resources and can easily disprove your claims if they are not valid.
When you are getting close to your trial, an insurance company might use disability spies to gather evidence. Surveillance could begin in the months or weeks leading up to your trial, not just a few days before. If an insurance company takes your case to trial, without settling, they will likely use whatever tactics necessary to help build their case.
At the examination for discovery, you will also sometimes be surveilled throughout that day. The insurance company will know where you’ll be, making it easier to follow you to gauge your level of ability. This is not as common as the other times but still occurs fairly often.
Types of Surveillance in a Disability Claim
There are different surveillance tactics insurers will use to avoid paying disability benefits. A few of these tactics include:
Fixed surveillance: More commonly called a “stakeout,” during fixed surveillance, an investigator will observe a claimant from a distance. They will watch from one or more areas close to where the claimant is known to be seen. This process can involve more than one investigator. Fixed surveillance could take place over a short or long time, depending on the quality of evidence the investigator can collect and the size of your claim. This tactic’s primary purpose is to observe a claimant’s regular daily routine and see if there is anything they should not be doing or not able to do because of their disability.
Stationary technical surveillance: This tactic is similar to fixed surveillance but reduces the need for a human investigator. Instead, surveillance technology, like video cameras and sound recorders, is placed in areas a claimant is known to frequent.
Tracking: The tactic of tracking is precisely what you are likely already thinking. Your movements are tracked to look at where you’ve been and where you are going. This can be done either by an investigator inconspicuously following you from location to location, or by tracking tools like GPS or a location tracking app.
Insurance companies will also commonly hire an investigator to conduct a thorough background check on you after filing a claim. This background check is usually the starting point that provides the investigator with the information they need to surveil you effectively.
The information a private investigator commonly looks for in a background check is:
- Where you live
- Who you live with
- What kind of car you and the members of your household drive
- Properties and businesses registered in you or your spouse’s name
- Active licenses and permits,
- Your criminal history
Investigators may also conduct social media checks or general internet searches to track you throughout your case. Home visits or office visits are also reasonably common when being surveilled by your insurance company to provide them with more insight into your behavior in the places you spend the most time.
Is an Investigator Going To Follow Me When I Apply for LTD?
There is no way to know for sure if you will experience surveillance during your LTD claim. Still, it is essential to prepare for every scenario. By talking to an LTD lawyer, you can get an expert opinion on how to navigate these issues. A disability lawyer can also guide you through being surveilled and help you deal with the pressure of being followed or recorded.
Is it Legal for the Insurance Company to Spy On Me?
The reality of the likelihood of being surveilled because you applied for LTD can be an unsettling one for most, but it is legal for insurance companies to do. However, it is not always legal.
If you have signed an overboard authorization, which some LTD policies require you to do, your insurance company can evaluate the validity of the claim.
How and where the surveillance took place further determines if it is legal. If you are in public, such as driving, shopping, walking in the street, or even at dinner in a restaurant, the surveillance is likely completely legal. If you are being surveilled in a private area, such as in your home, that’s when the legality becomes questionable. You are expected to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in these locations.
Why is it Legal for Insurance Companies to Conduct Long Term Disability Spying?
Insurance companies have a financial responsibility to their shareholders to ensure they are only paying for legitimate LTD insurance claims. If they were not to investigate any of the claims made, insurance companies would pay out billions of dollars each year for fraudulent claims. This would significantly increase insurance premiums by hundreds or even thousands of dollars yearly, possibly making LTD insurance unaffordable for millions of people.
Although insurance companies have the right to evaluate the validity of your claim, this right is commonly abused. They often use the pretense of fighting fraud to delay, undervalue, and wrongfully deny valid claims.
Tips to Navigate Surveillance During Your LTD Claim
- Try your best to live life, normally, and not become fixated on the possibility of being surveilled. If you are forthright with the insurer and your lawyer about your activity levels, then you have nothing to worry about.
- Be forthright with your claims handler about your activities. Particularly if you are going to try to increase your levels of activity to gauge your level of function.
- Actively take note of the vehicles and people in areas that are prominent in your life. If you find the same person or a car of the same year, make, model, and color in these areas, it is possible you’re being tracked.
- While in public, keep conversations about your disability and claim to a minimum. These conversations should be saved and only conducted in private areas where surveillance is not legal.
- Understand what an investigator might be looking for. If you have a physical disability, your ability to bend, lift, carry, walk, stand, and climb will be judged. If you have a mental disability, the way you carry yourself and interact with others could be recorded and possibly used against you if it does not align with your claim.
- Know your rights. If your policy does not give your insurance company the right to conduct long-term disability spying, this vital information can save you from being tracked and help push your case forward faster.
- Be wary of home and office visits. By consenting to one of these visits, you are allowing an investigator to conduct surveillance in these areas, and they are no longer considered private.
- Save everything. Keep all correspondence between you and your insurance company, medical and legal documents, and everything that relates to your LTD claim. Also, keep a diary of how your daily activities are affecting you.
- Be wary of what you post on social media and the internet. Posting the wrong thing online can provide the insurance company with evidence that conflicts with the information in your claim.
How to Protect Yourself During LTD Surveillance
There are many ways to protect yourself during your LTD claim. Talking to an LTD lawyer can give you a better understanding of the steps specific to you that you need to take to make sure you’re protected. Our experienced disability lawyers have dealt with a magnitude of LTD claims. They have a great idea of how you could be surveilled during your specific case and how to minimize the impact from both a strategic and psychological perspective.
When to Hire an LTD Lawyer
Having contact with an LTD lawyer before, during, and after your LTD claim will increase the chances of successfully receiving your benefits. The application process is confusing and requires extensive medical documentation. Having a properly completed application with influential supporting documents can increase your chances from the start.
If your LTD benefits have been denied, taking on your insurance company’s decision is a difficult task. With the help of our LTD lawyers and their expertise in long-term disability claims, you can have a team backing your case that knows how to appeal their decision and get you the benefits you deserve.
Contact us today for help on submitting your LTD application or to fight back on your wrongful denial.