In a perfect world, an employee would suffer a work-related injury, file their workers’ compensation claim, have that claim approved, and take the time they needed to heal, while having all of their medical expenses paid and their wages covered. Unfortunately, the workers’ compensation process is rarely that simple because employers and their insurance companies are notorious for trying to deny an injured worker’s right to benefits.
One of the most common methods used by insurance companies is to put the injured worker under surveillance in order to “catch” them doing something that contradicts their injury claim.
The insurance company will conduct surveillance on an injured worker with the hopes of detecting fraud on the part of the worker or at least determine just how injured the worker is based on the activities he or she is observed doing. The goal of the surveillance is to prove that the worker is:
- Not really injured or disabled
- Exaggerating their injuries or disability
- Capable of more physical activity than they are admitting to
- Not credible
Surveillance may be conducted by an in-house investigator from the insurance company, or the company could hire an outside agency to collect the information. Typically, the investigator will watch the worker at their home and follow them when they leave, documenting what the worker does. The investigator will often take photos and/or videos of the worker as they go about their day.
Investigators may also speak with family, friends, and neighbors of the worker. It is rare they will be upfront with the person about who they are and what they are doing, instead posing as someone or something else in order to see if they can get the person to divulge some information that would be detrimental to the injured worker’s claim.
Is Surveillance Legal and Can It Be Used as Evidence?
Every injured worker who has filed a workers’ compensation claim needs to be aware that not only is it legal for the insurance company to conduct surveillance, but the company is also allowed to present any evidence gathered from the surveillance as evidence to deny the worker’s claim. Photos and video evidence can be presented to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission in order to prove what the worker is capable of doing based on the activities the evidence captures them doing.
In the majority of cases, the evidence does not interfere with the worker’s claim. However, there are situations where video evidence can appear as the worker is lying about the extent of their injury.
For example, a worker who is collecting benefits for a back injury would most likely be a prime candidate for surveillance. The worker has been told by their doctor they should not be lifting anything. One day, the worker is in their yard with their toddler, unaware of the zoom lens of the camera trained on them by an investigator sitting in a parked car on their street. Their child falls and begins crying. As a parent, the injured worker’s instinct is to pick up the toddler and comfort them, even though doing so created an enormous amount of pain in their back. But that exchange is caught on camera and the presentation of those photos make it look as if the back injury is not as painful as the worker is claiming.
Contact a DuPage County Work Injury Attorney
If you have been injured on the job, a Wheaton workers’ compensation lawyer can make sure that you receive the benefits you are entitled to and protect you from the antics the insurance company attempts in order to prevent you from receiving those benefits. Call Law Offices of David W. Clark, P.C. at 630-665-5678 to schedule a free and confidential consultation and find out how we can help.