At Ray Bourhis Associates, we often receive calls from claimants scared that they are being watched and followed by their insurance companies. In truth, this is a very common practice in the insurance industry and it is, for the most part, completely legal. Insurance fraud costs insurance companies more than $80 million each year. Whether a claim is small or large, insurers frequently use surveillance as a means to verify that a claim is not fraudulent. However, surveillance can also be used to improperly deny legitimate claims.
If you are filing an LTD claim, be aware that you may be targeted by one or more of the following common surveillance practices:
- Background Checks: Many insurers start a claim investigation by running a traditional background check on claimants. These reports can identify red flags in an individual’s past, such as criminal arrests, a poor credit score, or prior disputes with other insurance companies, which may indicate a risk for insurance fraud.
- Social Media Surveillance: A low cost alternative to physical surveillance is research on a claimant’s web presence and social media accounts. Insurers look to verify whether a claimant’s photos are consistent with the physical disabilities he or she is claiming.
- Private Investigators: As part of the claim investigation, many LTD insurers hire private investigators to stakeout the claimant’s home and take photos or video of them while they engage in their daily activities. Surveillance of this nature usually takes place for a period of 1-3 days. The focus is whether the claimant is engaging in physical activities consistent with their claimed physical restrictions and limitations.
- Remote Surveillance: Fixed surveillance devices, such as video recorders and audio recorders, can be used by investigators to monitor a claimant from afar, without the obvious physical presence of a private investigator. The use of these devices is highly regulated and is not permitted in all states.
Surveillance of insurance claimants in public places is generally legal. However, you may have recourse against your insurance company if it engages in invasive surveillance tactics. There are many recorded instances of insurers trespassing upon claimant property, placing illegal wiretaps, and impersonating claimants to obtain personal and financial information. Insurance companies can be both criminally and civilly liable for the conduct of private investigators in these cases.
If you believe your insurance company is engaging in illegal surveillance, contact Ray Bourhis Associates to discuss your case. We can ensure that your insurer is obeying the law and respecting your personal privacy while conducting its claim investigation.
Ray Bourhis Associates
ABOUT ERIC WHITEHEAD
Eric Whitehead, Ray Bourhis Associates, represents long-term disability claimants in every aspect of the insurance claims process and state and federal litigation.