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5 Things to Understand About Workers' Compensation Surveillance

Book with title Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP).
Workers' compensation surveillance isn't a myth; it is a scenario that happens to injury victims on a routine basis. Workers' compensation cases can be expensive for employers and insurance companies alike, and these organizations will do everything in their power to keep these costs as low as possible, including surveilling injury victims to see if they're being honest. 

Any person who has been hurt on the job and is seeking compensation must understand what this surveillance practice is all about and why it matters.

1. It Is Legal

The idea of a stranger watching and capturing images of you, and even your family, seems like an illegal invasion of your privacy. However, in the case of a workers' compensation claim, surveillance is a legal invasion even when you're at home.

Provided the investigator is not harassing you, infringing on your personal space, or trespassing on your property, they have a legal right to watch and take pictures of you as long as you are in public view.  

2. Surveillance Happens at Anytime

Companies hire professionals to surveil injury victims. Since this is a paid service, the investigator will do everything in their power to deliver what their client wants. Keep this in mind, and do not assume that private investigators have ordinary business hours.

Whether you're heading to the grocery store on Monday morning, a doctor's appointment on Thursday, or sitting outside on a Sunday afternoon, you could be watched.  

3. Motives Vary

The reasoning behind workers' compensation surveillance varies; it is not always to see if someone is faking an injury. Companies use this tool to verify an injured victim isn't working on the side and to ensure they're following the doctor's orders. Take an injured worker who isn't healing as anticipated. The worker has been prescribed an air walker to aid in their recovery.

A company might choose to have this person monitored to see if they are engaging in any activity that is hindering their recovery. If the surveillance reveals they are not wearing their boot as prescribed, the private investigator will deliver this evidence to the company.

4. Evidence May Equal Denial

Because workers' compensation surveillance is legal, information collected is usable against you. If the investigator gathers evidence that disproves a claim, such as someone with a debilitating back injury playing football, their workers' compensation case could be denied.

Even if any incriminating information gained through the surveillance doesn't lead to an outright claim denial, the value of the claim could be negatively affected. 

5. Physical Surveillance Is Just the Start

Workers' compensation surveillance goes beyond a person sitting in a car watching you. Investigators can monitor your actions without ever leaving their office thanks to social media. You want to be especially mindful of the content you post online. A post about a physical activity you participated in, or plan to, can hurt your case.

You should also be cautious using check-in features, particularly if you're claiming you are not well enough to return to work. Even if you're just riding with someone else, if you are checking in at the mall, a restaurant, and other places around town, your employer might think you're having a good time when you could be at work. 

Not every person who has had their workers' compensation claim negatively affected due to surveillance is being dishonest about their injuries. Some people are simply not following the directions of their doctor. Use this information as motivation to stay on course. At Cole Fisher Cole & O'Keefe, we are here to  protect your rights during the surveillance process and beyond.
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