Insurance Companies’ Use of Surveillance to Deny a Claim

The California Department of Insurance regulates the insurance industry in the state. If you suspect your insurance company has been surveilling you while you’re out on a workers’ compensation claim, a disability claim, or even a personal injury (auto accident) claim, you can go to the department’s website and search for “surveillance.”

If you do, you won’t find anything about regulating the insurance industry’s surveillance practices, but you will find press releases about consumers who were nabbed for fraud through surveillance.

One such press release proclaims: “Video surveillance revealed that [name withheld] continued physically demanding work on a side job while receiving more than $150,000 in workers' compensation benefits after claiming an allegedly debilitating lower back injury which supposedly prevented him from working.”

In other words, surveillance by insurance companies of people filing claims or receiving benefits is pretty standard behavior. Of course, there are privacy laws that prevent the insurers from certain activities, but once you step outside of your residence, you’re pretty much open game.

If you’ve had an insurance claim denied or canceled in San Francisco, California, or throughout the state, and you feel the action was unjustified, contact us at The Law Office of Bennett M. Cohen, P.C.

Likewise, if you’ve been receiving disability or workers’ compensation benefits that are suddenly canceled, contact us immediately. We know and understand California insurance law and insurance company tactics and are ready to help you exercise your rights.

Legal Parameters of Surveillance

Photos and video footage have long been the staple of insurance companies investigating a disability or injury claim. If they can catch you in a scene indicating that your disability or injury is exaggerated or fabricated, they can deny your claim or terminate the benefits you’ve been receiving.

The legal standard here is they can track you where there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy.” They can follow you into a supermarket, a gym, restaurants, even your church, temple, or synagogue. Investigators hired by the insurance companies are accomplished at not revealing themselves or their activities. You will likely have no hunch that you’re being followed or photographed.

Sometimes, investigators are so adept that they use two vehicles to follow you when you leave your residence in your automobile. When you turn, one of their cars will go straight and the other will turn with you.

Of course, there are limitations to surveillance tactics. They cannot enter anyone’s private residential property, including yours, or they will be trespassing. They certainly cannot put a wire on your phone or hack into your private email accounts.

Insurance company representatives, however, are perfectly within their right to visit you at home and discuss your condition with you. If they do, they’ll be looking for any signs that your injury or disability is not as severe as you claimed it to be. Of course, you don’t have to let them in. Just say you’re too weak or physically unable or have a family member convey your desire not to be bothered.

Surveillance and the Rise of Social Media

Before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms came on the scene, insurance company investigators were largely limited to staking you out and following you to see if you did anything that would negate your claim of injury or disability.

Now, the investigators’ task is even easier. They can — and will — scour your social media accounts and look for photos or videos you post of yourself, or that your followers post of or about you. They can use these photos and posts to alert their surveillance crew to follow up.

You might even post something as innocent as your doctor’s advice that, to help you rehabilitate your back, you take a five-minute walk each morning. The next morning, your walk may well be surveilled by insurance company investigators. 

If you walk for 20 minutes instead of five and appear fresh and vigorous at the end of your jaunt, the investigators might use that as proof that you fabricated your suffering when you initially claimed your back was so bad that you couldn’t even stand for five minutes.

Likewise, if your disability is based on anxiety and depression and you post a photo or video of yourself enjoying a Mardi Gras festivity, or you write about how much fun you had, that can open the floodgates. What happened to the dysfunction caused by depression and anxiety that you claimed?

Of course, everyone tries to appear upbeat on social media, but by doing so, you may unwittingly open Pandora’s Box for a claim denial or termination of your benefits.

Even a LinkedIn account in which you list your job history and qualifications can be used against you if it implies that you’re still working or even looking for work. Make sure your account reflects the correct end date for the job you left because of your injury or disability, and also that it does not appear like a puffed-up piece seeking new employment.

Protecting Yourself

Even if the injury or disability for which you’re seeking or receiving benefits is perfectly legitimate, you should be on the guard for any missteps that can result in surveillance or questioning. If you have social media accounts, turn on the privacy settings and be careful not to use a lot of happy-face emojis or make statements or post pictures that can be misconstrued to contradict your claimed condition.

Be wary of new friend requests from people you don’t know. Investigators may seek to befriend you so they can keep a closer watch on you. And certainly don’t seek new employment on LinkedIn or other sites, and make sure your descriptions on social media indicate that you’re not working due to an injury or disability.

Call Us at the Law Office of Bennett M. Cohen, P.C. for Help

If you believe you are being surveilled by insurance investigators, you need to minimize your exposure and carefully monitor your social media activities. At The Law Office of Bennett M. Cohen, P.C., we are well aware of insurance company surveillance tactics, and we are ready to help you exercise your rights and work with you to protect your benefits. We can advise you on how best to handle any situation that arises.

Especially if you’ve been denied a legitimate claim or had your benefits canceled, you need to contact us immediately. Our office is in San Francisco, but we proudly serve clients throughout the state of California. 

Better yet, involve us from the very beginning in filing your claim so that you can present solid medical evidence to prevent the insurer from claiming you lack sufficient medical verification.


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