Insurance companies commonly use surveillance to try and gather evidence against long-term disability claims. If your insurance company finds evidence that they believe goes against your disability claim, they may deny your claim and stop paying out your benefits. But is this kind of surveillance legal? Let’s look at some important considerations.
Types of Long-Term Disability Insurance Surveillance
If you are receiving private disability benefits, your insurance company may monitor you in a number of different ways, including:
What is allowed:
Your insurance company may hire a private investigator to record your daily activities. A private investigator may follow you to any number of public places while you live your daily life, and they can even observe and film you in your yard and driveway. If your insurance company sees any behavior in these videos that they think contradicts the nature of your disability, they can use this video evidence to deny your disability claim.
If the insurance company schedules you for an independent medical examination or other type of evaluation that takes you out of your home, be aware that they might be using that as an opportunity to watch you. It is also common for them to surveil you over 2-3 days, not just over a single day. In some cases, we have seen multiple surveillance attempts over the course of several months.
What isn’t allowed:
Private investigators cannot enter your property or record you in any situation or place where you can reasonably expect privacy, such as through your bathroom or bedroom windows. If you believe a private investigator is violating your right to privacy, make note of any and all potential violations. You can even call the police if you feel that a private investigator is breaking the law. If you know you are being surveilled and you live in the State of Arizona, the private investigator’s conduct could be considered stalking. Again, call your local police if you believe you are being followed.
Our Firm routinely argues against surveillance, including the legality of such surveillance. We have seen insurance companies follow claimants into gyms, retail stores, onto public transportation, and even try to record video in the backyard of clients. We have even seen some insurance companies, such as Prudential, try to do “neighborhood canvassing” by interviewing your neighbors, which the Firm believes to be unlawful. In nearly every case of surveillance, the insurance company misrepresents your level of functionality and even manipulates the video to make you appear more active than you really are.
Social Media and Internet Surveillance
What is allowed:
In our modern day and age, social media and internet surveillance are becoming increasingly common ways for insurance companies to gather evidence against your claim. Any posts that you make publicly or even privately could be used to deny your disability claim. Insurance companies will search for you online, even checking corporation commissions to see if any companies are registered in your name. They may search across social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, for your accounts and even inspect the accounts of your spouse or other family members to ascertain your activity level. Because people often post only their best moments on social media, any social media activity is typically not indicative of true functionality. However, this reality will not stop the insurance company from misrepresenting your social media for the purpose of denying your claim.
What isn’t allowed:
Insurance companies should not try and gain access to private social media accounts or posts in any unlawful manner. They should not friend request you for the purpose of surveillance, although you should be diligent in the friend requests you accept. If you believe that your insurance company is trying to gain access to private online accounts or information, keep a record of these transgressions in the event your insurance company tries to use this information to deny your claim.
Field Visits and Interviews
What is allowed:
Your insurance company may try and send a representative to your home to interview you under the guise of getting to know you as a client. These visits, more often than not, are a way for the insurance company to gather information about your demeanor, daily life, and activities that can then be used to deny your claim. They may ask a number of probing questions to try and uncover information that they could potentially use to deny your claim. You should review your policy before a field visit to ensure that you understand your rights.
What isn’t allowed:
If your insurance company requests a field visit, you do not have to let the representative into your home. If they request a home visit, you don’t have to accept – offer to meet in a public, accessible place instead, or hire an attorney to oversee the visit. This can inhibit the field representative’s ability to gain information about your home and personal life. You should also ask for the right to record and request any questions be provided to you in advance. The field representative will often ask about your medications, so you should be prepared to bring these to your field visit. Contact our Firm if you need help with a field visit.
How Can I Protect Myself Against Disability Insurance Surveillance?
The best way to protect yourself against incriminating surveillance is to live your life as you usually do. JUST BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FUNCTIONALITY. Don’t let the threat of surveillance by your disability insurance provider change how you live your daily life. That being said, be aware of how your public actions may contradict the information that you’ve given to your insurance company about your disabling condition. It is important that you are fully honest with your insurance company – do not lie about the severity of your conditions. Any surveillance that they gather that contradicts what you’ve told them about your limitations can be used to deny your claim.
Additionally, be aware of your online presence. Your insurance company can use even the most innocuous social media posts to deny your claim by taking them out of context. If you are applying for or are currently receiving private disability benefits, it may be wise to make all of your social media accounts private, as well as limit your social media posts. Posting about vacations, travel, or the gym could be easily used against your disability claim – if you do post about these types of activities, just be honest with the insurance company about what you can and cannot do.
What Should I Do if My Disability Claim Was Denied?
If your insurance company denies your private disability benefits, contact our Firm right away. Your insurance company wants to intimidate you into giving up. In fact, they bank on you walking away. But you don’t have to accept their misconduct, and you don’t have to go it alone – reach out to the experienced and passionate disability law team at Ronstadt Law for a free consultation.