Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.
Have you noticed a suspicious vehicle lurking in your neighborhood lately, or is there a stranger that seems to be everywhere you go? If you have an active workers’ compensation claim, then you may not be imaging things. More and more, we are seeing insurance companies willing to spend thousands of dollars to hire private investigators to conduct clandestine surveillance of an injured worker’s daily activities and documenting these activities with video cameras. This type of surveillance often comes as a shock to our clients.
When these situations arise, the question we hear most often is, “Can they do that? Is this legal?” The answer is yes. Private investigators may photograph or video people in their private residences so long as they are clearly visible to the general public and there is no expectation of privacy. They can also conduct a full background investigation and obtain information about any other claims you made for personal injuries or if you have ever been charged with a crime.
While there are honest private investigators in the field, there are also those who will cheat. One investigator deflated an injured worker’s tire and then videotaped the person “working” to fix the flat tire. Another investigator reported talking on the phone to someone who told him that an injured worker was working while also receiving workers’ compensation benefits. A follow up done by our firm proved that the person with whom the investigator claimed to have talked has a serious hearing impairment and could not use the telephone.
Injured workers need to be aware that surveillance can happen in any case. It has become part of the workers’ compensation system. By the way, if you do notice a suspicious car parked near your home, call the police.
Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm. It is particularly relevant now, at a time when we are seeing a spike in the number of cases where surveillance video is being used to bring claims to a halt here in Washington State.
A dozen attorneys in Montana representing injured workers made headlines petitioning their Supreme Court to stop State fraud investigators sharing surveillance videos with doctors of worker’s compensation claimants. About 14,000 Montana residents are covered by the State Fund and the Fund’s Investigative Unit conducts video surveillance on about 500 claimants each year and shows the videos to claimants’ treating physicians. This practice raises questions about physician-patient privilege and patient privacy.
In Wisconsin and most other States, the physician-patient privilege is waived by an employee who reports a work-related injury. The waiver only extends, however, to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the work injury. Considerable debate sometimes arises over which treatment records are reasonably related to a claim. A broken toe, for example, is not likely relevant to an asthma condition but a prior Hepatitis-C claim may be. Employers and insurers may attempt to obtain records from a medical provider without a release, and practitioners must provide reports to the employer, insurer, employee, or Worker’s Comp Division within a reasonable time after written request.
The Fund’s Investigative Unit conducts video surveillance on about 500 claimants each year and shows the videos to claimants’ treating physicians… In Wisconsin and most other States, the physician-patient privilege is waived by an employee who reports a work-related injury. The waiver only extends, however, to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the work injury.