Is the workers’ compensation insurance company allowed to put me under surveillance?

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation insurance, or work comp, is an insurance that pays benefits if you get injured on the job or if something in your work environment makes you ill. Benefits include medical coverage, payment for lost wages, and long-term disability payments if you are unable to return to work. The insurance companies that provide work comp policies have an interest in paying out as little as possible. They may seek to prove that you are not injured or at least not injured as seriously as you claim. Surveillance is often used to do this.

What Kinds of Surveillance Is Used?

Most commonly, insurance companies use private investigators to watch workers who are receiving or have filed for benefits. The company hopes the investigator will observe you doing something that you could not do if you were genuinely disabled. For example, someone with a severe back injury should not be lifting weights.

The law gives the insurance company broad leeway. The investigator can videotape you or take pictures of you as long as you are in public. He or she can talk to your neighbors and make very personal inquiries. The investigator can use anything you post on social media, even if you have your privacy settings restricted. While these activities may feel like an invasion of privacy, they are legal.

Investigators usually try to stay out of sight, so you won’t know they are watching. However, if you feel you are being observed, you should call the police and make a report. While investigating is legal, you should never feel unsafe. Private investigators are not allowed to take pictures of you through your windows. Trespassing is illegal, regardless of why the investigator is following you.

The best advice for dealing with work comp investigators is to follow your doctor’s orders as to the activities you can and cannot do. Be careful out in public because you never know when you are being watched. Avoid any action that might call your injury or illness into question. You may find it helpful to keep a log of the dates, times, and locations where you feel the investigator is watching or following you.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

If you feel the investigator is breaking the law, call the police to make a report. The police can also help if you are being followed, but you aren’t sure if it’s a work comp investigator or someone else. Last but not least, consult experienced and knowledgeable New York workers compensation lawyers. He or she can help you understand what to expect and when an investigation has gone too far.

Thanks to Polsky, Shouldice & Rosen, P.C. for their insight into workers compensation and denied claims.