By Peter Casciano, Esq.
Many of my clients have been shocked to learn that when you submit your application for long-term disability (LTD) benefits, you are also agreeing to be a subject of the insurance company’s surveillance.
In many long-term disability policies, there exists a clause basically permitting the insurance company to hire private investigators to conduct surveillance and report back to the insurance company on what they have seen. The insurance companies then scour the footage to either find evidence that an LTD claimant can work, or that the claimant has previously lied about their symptoms and limitations.
My Advice to Long-Term Disability Claimants
I’ve also had many clients shocked to hear my advice when they ask me what they should do if they suspect the insurance company will (or is) conducting surveillance. My answer is: “Do nothing unusual.” Live your life. Do not confront the private eye if you see them, do not “act disabled,” as it will only come off fake, and do not stay home.
I must clarify what I mean when I say don’t stay home though. If your condition, physical or emotional, causes you to need to stay home, due to mobility issues, fear, anxiety, fatigue, etc., then by all means do not force yourself outside. However, for everyone else, I’d say that the evidence I see on most surveillance tapes is evidence that helps THE CLAIMANT. My strongest arguments often come from evidence gathered by the insurance company.
In fact, an interesting opinion was just rendered in a case out of the Ninth Circuit of the Federal Courts, underlying a lot of the same points that I am trying to make. The court found the following of the claimant:
He was documented, on one day, sitting, standing and pacing for a longer period of time that he said he could…. [The insurance company] did not explain exactly what else [claimant] could have done other than either sit, stand, or pace while he waiting for his ride to come transport him home. Would it have made more of a difference if [claimant] had writhed in pain on the pavement in front of the camera rather than as soon as he returned home and climbed in his bed? See Collins v. Liberty Life Assur. Co. of Boston 2013 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 174237 (C.D.Cal. December 11, 2013).
This excerpt is remarkable in that it so simply grasps the frustration that so many people go through when worrying about surveillance. That surveillance, while accurate, only captures a fleeting moment of the claimant’s life and doesn’t show the effects of whatever activity they were engaged in or how debilitating it really was. The fact of the matter is that most people can temporarily sacrifice to make a situation work; the effects of that sacrifice manifest themselves in more medication, rest (as the judge mentioned above), and increased fatigue.
For additional information, or any questions about this blog and the process of filing for long-term disability insurance, please contact me:
By Peter Casciano, Esq.