Insurance companies often hire private investigators to follow people after they get hurt at work. Many people have questions about what this means and how it will affect your workers compensation case. This article provides some basic information about why insurance companies do this and how it can affect your workers compensation case.
Why do insurance companies hire private investigators?
Insurance companies are businesses. As for profit businesses, one of their goals is to make money. When people are receiving workers compensation benefits after an injury, it costs the insurance company money.
When they hire private investigators, insurance companies hope that they will obtain information to show that someone is not as hurt as they claim to be. That information could include any of the following:
- Observations made by the private investigator that are documented in the investigator’s written report
- Pictures taken by the private investigator showing you performing activities that your injury should prevent you from doing
- Videos taken by the private investigator showing you performing activities that your injury should prevent you from doing
So, the insurance company hopes that the private investigator will observe you doing things that you should not be doing. If they get pictures or videos showing this, they will try to use this information to get your workers compensation benefits stopped.
Will it hurt my case if the insurance company hires a private investigator?
Not necessarily. It will depend on whether the private investigator gets information showing that you performing activities that you should not be doing while injured.
Generally, this involves you doing activities that your doctor would tell you not to do. For example, let’s say your workers compensation doctor recommends that you not lift over 20 pounds as a result of a back injury at work. If the private investigator videotapes you lifting 50 pound bags, that will likely hurt your case because you are doing more than your doctor says you should.
So, one of the most important things is to make sure that you exceed what your doctor tells you to do. Sometimes, people do more than they should because they have something they need to do around the house. Often, when someone does a little bit more than they should, their injury affects them for several days after that.
The problem is that a private investigators videos or pictures do not show what happens afterward. The videos and pictures only show you doing the activity. They do not show the after effects of doing that activity.
Because the video only shows you doing more than you should, the insurance company will use that try to argue that you could do that sort of activity all the time. They will also often send the videos or pictures to your workers compensation doctor to try to get the doctor to say you have recovered from your injury.
This can really hurt your case because your workers compensation doctor has great power to affect your rights to receive workers compensation benefits. What your workers compensation doctor says about your case can cause your benefits to stop and keep you from getting medical treatment.
Will the insurance company tell me if they hire a private investigator?
No. The insurance company will not tell you if they hire a private investigator. The insurance company does not want you to know this. They want to have the private investigator observe you without you knowing that you are being watched.
The goal of the insurance company when they hire a private investigator is to get evidence that will allow them to stop paying you workers compensation benefits. You do not want your workers compensation benefits stopped before they should be, so the insurance company does not want you to know that they are trying to get information to stop your benefits.
Can I prevent the insurance company from hiring a private investigator?
No. The insurance company can hire a private investigator to investigate your case. You do not have control over that.
But, the law does limit what a private investigator can do. This website has some helpful general information about what private investigators can and cannot do. The laws that apply vary by state.
If a private investigator does not follow the law, you may have remedies for that in your workers compensation case. Also, the private investigator’s action could give rise to another case that you could pursue against the private investigator or others. Be sure to check into this if you become aware that a private investigator has done something against the law.