Will the Insurance Company Watch Me if I Have a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Based on my experience, and depending on your injury, yes they very well might. Some insurance companies may do anything they can to pay you as little as possible. Private investigators are still used in many instances, but with social media, it’s now easier to get information to use against you – even seemingly harmless information.
I had a client3 who was seen in a social media photo walking around and drinking with some friends while he had a denied claim for lower leg injury. One of the recipients copied on the picture was his boss. The boss claimed my client was seen walking in such a way that seemed to indicate he was not as injured as he claimed, so he reported this information to the insurance adjuster. That information, in part, led to the denied claim.
Why Would My Insurance Company Watch Me?
The short answer is the insurance company is often skeptical of your injury and the extent of your disability and is likely to spend money and resources on efforts to determine if you are as injured as you claim.
For example, let’s take a situation where the insurance company has accepted your claim and is providing medical treatment and wages while you are out of work and treating for your injury. The doctor has you under restrictions of no lifting/pushing/pulling greater than 25 pounds and only occasional bending. Even when you are injured, it is still necessary to maintain some degree of a normal life. Usual activities for many of us include grocery shopping, picking up and dropping off kids, basic yard work, and household chores.
Many insurance companies in my estimation typically take the stance that you aren’t as injured as you have reported to the doctor and that they may be able to prove that by hiring an investigator to follow you and observe and record your activities. The investigator may follow you to the grocery store, park, church, restaurant, or simply park outside your home or neighborhood.
A private investigator from the insurance company may observe and record you performing one of these seemingly harmless activities:
- carrying a bag of groceries or a carton of milk
- pushing a trashcan to the curb
- bending over to put a leash on your dog to walk around the block
- playing with your kids outside
While these activities are not inconsistent with the restrictions your doctor has prescribed, video surveillance or still shots can oftentimes be misleading or taken out of context to give the appearance that you are performing physical activities in excess of your restrictions.
What the insurance company may hope to do with surveillance they have gathered is to provide it to your treating physician in an effort to get the doctor to release you. They may also use surveillance as a way to try and push you toward settlement.
Is It Legal for a Private Investigator To Follow Me?
Yes, it is generally legal for a private investigator to follow you. It’s business as usual in certain cases, as long as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. That means that most evidence gathered in a public setting is considered to be legally obtained. For example, they may observe you working in your yard or standing on your front porch, as you are likely within public view under these circumstances.
Can an Insurance Investigator Tap My Phone?
No, an insurance investigator cannot tap your phone – ever. Tapping a phone involves using electronic equipment to secretly listen to someone’s phone conversations, and it is illegal.
However, tapping a phone should not be confused with taking a recorded statement, which many insurance companies do on a routine basis. Many states such as North Carolina and South Carolina are one-party consent states, which means that generally only one party has to give permission to having the call recorded. Most insurance companies will tell you ahead of time that they are recording the call, but I advise all of my clients to only give a recorded statement with the guidance of an experienced lawyer to try to avoid any possible traps.
Today, more and more information is obtained through social media.
Social Media Dos and Don’ts to Maintain Privacy from Insurance Companies
Our attorneys and staff at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin have seen an increase in electronic surveillance of social media sites by the insurance companies. We have seen some insurance companies use this information to try and embarrass our clients and diminish their potential for compensation.
The emergence of social media sites was just what the doctor ordered for insurance snoops. And snoop they will.
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and even Snapchat. Any site where you share information with others can be a treasure chest of information for the insurance company. Many use sophisticated software to troll for something – anything – they can potentially use against you now or in the future. (Some are even starting to use the information to potentially affect premiums clients pay.)
If you have been injured in any way, even if you don’t think you will file a workers’ compensation claim, here are some helpful social media guidelines to try to keep the insurance companies out of your personal life.
While we strongly urge you to NOT post anything about your injury on any social media site, if you must post, follow these Dos and Don’ts.
- Set the Highest Privacy Settings.
This means making sure that only friends can see your information and not friends of friends or the general public.
- Know Who Has Tagged You.
You need to monitor your posts as well as posts from friends and others you may not know well who have tagged you. Be especially diligent about allowing what is portrayed about you on others’ sites. This is easily trackable.
- Be Careful Who Your “Friends” Are.
Accept friend requests only from people you actually know. Remove people you have as “friends” currently who are only acquaintances or people you don’t know or barely know.
- Make Yourself Invisible.
Remove yourself from Facebook search results by selecting “friends only” under search visibility in your profile settings.
Remove yourself from Google by going to your Internet Privacy Settings and unchecking the box for Public Search Listing.
- Turn off Your Geolocation.
All social media sites have a geolocation feature. Geolocation shows anyone where you are and what places you frequent. Unless you want the insurance company to know you were at the local pub the night of your accident, turn this off. Even if you were drinking ginger ale all night and were the designated driver, they may try to say you were drunk. Go to the section of all your social media sites or click on the location button before posting.
- Be Extra Cautious.
Assume anything and everything you write on your social media pages, including status updates, check-ins, messages, and wall postings will at some point be seen by the insurance company.
- Email, Post, Share, or Tweet Any Information About Your Case.
Do not send emails to anyone except your lawyer regarding your claim and its progress, or your health. Don’t share anything with anyone concerning your accident. Don’t even share information about how you feel as it relates to your accident. “Not to worry, I’m fine” may be a comforting post for friends and loved ones, but to an insurance company, it can mean you are not injured. And they may try to use that post against you.
- Join Web Chat Groups.
You do not own the information you post online, and it is highly searchable. Do not post on message boards, participate in or comment on blogs, or go into chat rooms about insurance or claims-related issues. Do not create your own website or start your own blog about your experience.
The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Has Helped More Than 50,000 Injured People Since 1997
We at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin work with you as part of your legal team in your fight against the insurance companies.
Since 1997, we’ve recovered over $1.2 billion gross for over 50,000 clients.1 And these numbers don’t include the $1.25 billion we helped recover against the U.S. government for 18,400 claimants in a historic class action case.4
We’ve done this because we have lots of quality professionals. Over 50 attorneys, roughly 200 staff, and nine attorneys who are North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialists in workers’ compensation law, which is something less than 1% of the 30,000+ attorneys5 licensed to practice in NC can say.
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Follow the restrictions prescribed by your doctor at all times and in all settings – for your recovery first and foremost. But also, it is prudent to assume the insurance company is watching when you have a workers’ compensation claim.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, don’t post, tweet, or share anything about the injury.
3Client identity has been removed or changed to protect privacy.
4Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin led a team of firms to recover $1.25 billion for African-American farmers from the U. S. government for discrimination.
5Figure provided by the N.C. State Bar as of February 2021.