Insurance company surveillance of you by a private investigator is certainly one of the more controversial elements of your Georgia workers’ compensation case.
If you were not aware of this, you should be aware that your employer and their insurance company are legally allowed to hire a private investigator to follow you around with the goal of catching you lifting, climbing, carrying or engaging in any other type of physical activity that exceeds the work restrictions put in place by your doctor.
Private investigators use still and video cameras with long zoom lenses to watch you. For example, you may be at your son’s baseball practice, or shopping at Walmart completely unaware that a skilled private investigator is recording every step you take.
You may feel that this type of videotape surveillance is a violation of your privacy but under the law it is allowed. I would guess that half of the work injury clients I represent at any one time have been watched or recorded at some point in time.
So how should you conduct yourself given the likelihood that you will be surveilled by a private investigator while you are undergoing treatment and recovering from your work injury?
First, you should always limit your activities to the restrictions set out by your doctor. These restrictions were given for a reason – to help your body heal. You should limit your physical activities as medically ordered not out of fear of surveillance but because you want to get better.
Second, you should recognize that you may be tempted to engage in activities that exceed your doctor ordered restrictions. Perhaps you are having a really good day, or perhaps you are out with friends or family and you are embarrassed that you are not offering to help. You may fear that your friends or family will not understand why you are unwilling to lift or carry things.
I have had clients swear to me that they only loaded groceries into the car one time and that was because it was raining and no one could help. But that one time was captured on camera.
Whatever the reason, you cannot allow yourself to be shamed or persuaded into lifting, carrying, climbing, crouching or performing any physical activity outside of your doctor’s restrictions. If you are tempted, remind yourself that you really do want to get better and that there is a good chance that an investigator has his lens trained on you right now.
What Happens if You are Caught on Camera Doing Physical Labor?
If the worst happens and an investigator catches you lifting heavy bags of groceries or loading supplies into a truck, your case will be damaged. In some cases your case will be so damaged that your attorney will withdraw and any settlement value that may have been there will disappear.
In other cases there may be a good explanation for what you have been doing – for example, those bags of groceries you were lifting may have contained bags of popcorn that weigh practically nothing and the video does not offer a clear picture of what exactly you were lifting.
In still other situations the lighting is so bad that no one can say with certainty who is that dark shadow in the video. I have seen many cases where the surveillance video recorded is so unclear that it cannot be used as evidence.
Don’t Risk being Photographed in a Misleading Situation
I tell my clients to assume that from the minute they report an on the job injury until the minute they sign settlement papers, they should assume that a photographer and private investigator hired by the employer’s insurance company is following them around.
The idea that someone is following you and taking pictures may seem creepy and almost like you are being stalked. Unfortunately when you file a workers compensation claim in Georgia, you are heading into battle and the tactics used against you will be brutal.