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POST PANDEMIC SUREVEILLANCE BY LONG TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE CARRIERS

As someone who has, for more than 30 years, represented thousands of individuals who have applied for disability benefits, I can tell you one of the most common questions I receive from clients who have applied for or are receiving long term disability insurance benefits (LTD) is, “Do long term disability companies hire people to follow people because I swear I’m being followed?”

The short answer is Yes.

As many parts of our nation slowly re-open during the COVID 19 pandemic, insurers are stepping up their longstanding tradition of surveilling LTD claimants.

A. Physical Surveillance

  1. Throughout the pandemic and quarantine many medical providers have offered tele-med conferences with patients. Others have begun re-opening their offices for patient visits. Some have remained open throughout. LTD carriers hire investigators to surveil claimants and often follow them to doctor offices, hospitals, stores etc..
  2. At the height of quarantine, activities for the disabled, such as shopping for food or other goods was often limited to delivery services such as Instacart, Grubhub, Door dash, Amazon etc., or delivery of food or goods by family or friends. However, as states re-open, disabled individuals might be eager to go out and shop at brick and mortar stores. However, if a disabled individual lifts, carries, drives, etc.., and those activities exacerbate complaints or symptoms, it is critical to not engage in such activities.  If an investigator for an insurer captures a disabled individual performing these activities, they will not record the consequences of your actions later as you suffer in your home.
  3. If you suspect someone is following you, and you are feeling vulnerable, contacting local police is perfectly reasonable. LTD investigators often notify local police when they are surveilling someone so if you call the police and they tell you not to worry, that is often code for you are under surveillance. It is not unreasonable to request confirmation from the police.
  4. There are other occasions when individuals do not realize they are under surveillance so be mindful of not pushing your limits while outside because the video footage can only record what you are doing while outside. It cannot capture you crashing when you walk through your doors. So be sensible.
  5. Always accurately report activities on LTD forms, and to your attorney. Honesty will undermine the insurers effort to claim “gotcha” moments. I recommend keeping a journal of daily activities so that you can accurately report them.
    ALWAYS tell your attorney when you suspect any of the above.

B. Social Media Surveillance

THINK BEFORE YOU POST

For many years, insurers spent their surveillance budget on old fashioned, physical surveillance. But in the last decade or so, insurers have devoted as much, if not more, time and money investigating claimants’ social media accounts.

Our law firm routinely cautions clients about posting on social media, but the most common response is, “only my family and friends have access to my social media.” Unfortunately, that is very unlikely in today’s world. Vendors for insurers often devise clever ways to inspect private Facebook pages, Instagram posts and videos, and other social media in search of evidence of activities they will likely allege constitutes insurance fraud.

And while a NJ attorney is facing ethical admonition, for his ploy of asking his paralegal to friend a friend of an adverse party to gain an advantage[1] during litigation, insurers may utilize similar tactics in an effort to undermine LTD claims.

If you have filed a claim for disability insurance benefits, please limit social media presence, especially photos and videos that fail to accurately depict your current state of health.

While no one wants to depict themselves as weak, infirm or functionally limited, especially when friends and family engage in creative posts that inflate their daily lives, you should not lie against yourself by depicting only good days on social media posts when many, if not most, of your days are spent functionally limited. Social media is largely a fantasy world where inhabitants project images they would like the world to believe, rather than the reality of their everyday existence. While that might be harmless in many contexts, it is devastating in the context of an LTD claim. Depicting an unrealistic image of yourself may terminate an existing LTD claim or end it before it begins. So please think before you post.

Our law firm is honored to answer any concerns or questions you may have with respect to surveillance of any kind. Please feel free to contact us at: 201 444 4493 or at [email protected]

We are here to help!

And please be safe and well during these trying times.

[1] https://www.law.com/njlawjournal/2020/05/13/lawyer-faces-admonition-over-facebook-friending-to-gather-information-on-litigant/

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