How Can You Protect Your Disability Claim From the Investigation Tools Used by Disability Insurance Companies

By Robert | Date: 22/04/2024

You may have counted on your long term disability insurance claim to be treated like any other insurance claim, with you filling in a claim form, maybe a few questions being asked, and then feeling a wave of relief when benefits begin to be paid. Even if there were any challenges, you’d expect them to be straightened out as soon as you provided a reasonable addition to your information, either about your occupation or your medical treatment. This is not always the case.

More than a few of the contractual provisions in your long term disability policy include how the disability insurance company is permitted to confirm your disability.  They routinely use investigation tools that are not part of the contract but are largely permissible.  That often includes surveillance, which takes many shapes, and investigation through social media. 

The old school image of a private investigator sitting in a parked car or an unmarked van parked for several days near your home has been replaced by a vehicle equipped with a video camera so small that you can’t see it. A new mobile phone app that easily obtains video footage of a person or a place replaces even the car. This is unsettling but true: you order up the person, place, or thing you want video footage of, and the app matches you with someone in that area who can get the job done. The cost of a freelance video is even less than parking a car nearby.  Drones can also be used to track claimants – and devices can be left unmanned to seek activity.  

Another possibility is the unfriendly neighbor who has signed up for this app as a side business. The same for a neighbor who is asked to livestream video of the outside of your home to an insurance company denials representative.

Privacy laws still do not permit anyone to record you when you are inside your home, but once you have filed a disability claim, there should be no expectation of privacy once you step outside the door.

How can you protect yourself? 

If the insurance company seeks a medical examination, expect to be under surveillance for the day.  It is a sure thing that you will be leaving the house for the examination. Be sure to go to the exam and return home directly after the examination.  They will be watching you.

In general, keep a detailed journal of when you leave your home and why, so you have more than a vague memory of your appointments. This is very important, especially if you go to a number of doctor or treatment visits. While it might seem rational to stack a few errands together, we often see insurance companies using such “bundled” activity as evidence of someone’s significant functionality, despite the limited activity observed.

We have represented claimants who were prescribed physical therapy and were accused of being well enough to go to a gym, when their musculoskeletal conditions were brutally painful and substantially limiting.  Such information did not matter to the investigator, who was tasked with finding “evidence” to undercut the credibility of the claimant.  

Finally, if you think that someone is videotaping you, do not be confrontational, however furious you are. Anything that you say or do, even as simple as holding out a hand to block the person videotaping you, or as aggressive as pushing them backwards or losing your temper, could be used as evidence against your disability claim. Turn away from the camera and walk slowly away from the person. If you know who the person is (like a neighbor), you may want to file a police report to document the fact that they were videotaping you without your granting permission. But above all, do not engage with the person. 

Remember that video cameras are practically everywhere: between anti-crime cameras on streets and storefronts, video cameras integrated into doorbells and home security systems and the ever present cell phone, any actions outside of your home are potentially subject to being videotaped. When you are on claim, you need to be aware of your actions and how they can be deliberately misinterpreted by the disability insurance company. 

Keep Your Life Offline – Why Social Media is Dangerous for LTD Claimants 

The urge to share your life on social media has worked against many claimants, who might share a once in a lifetime vacation and see it utilized by an insurance company to undercut their claim. While this information may be used to assess the validity of disability benefits claims and determine if the claimant's reported limitations align with their online presence, it is often misused and overly emphasized.  

More than a few cases have gone to court questioning the admissibility of social media posts as evidence used to deny a claim. The insurance companies won. Staying off of social media is the best course of action for anyone contemplating filing a claim or who is being paid benefits.

Disability insurance companies monitor online activity, and whatever is public is fair game.  Facebook, Twitter (X), Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms are rich resources to uncover or discover collateral information about a claimant. 

Should You Travel When You’re On Disability?

Clients who have taken family cruises are deemed no longer disabled, even if they never left the ship and were limited in their activities.  The myopic focus from the insurance company is on what you did, not what you could not do.  There may be provisions in your long term disability insurance contract that addresses restrictions on travelling, especially outside of the country – be sure to understand your contract.

One client travelled to Europe for her son’s wedding, and despite being unable to engage in most activities but the actual wedding ceremony, the congratulations received from others on social media were used by her insurance company as proof she was not depressed or disabled.  Social Security does not account for social media issues, but long term disability insurance companies are not restricted in the same way, and because they are for profit entities, are more intent on seeking a reason to support a termination of a claim. 

Be wary, and not naïve, of what the insurance company has in its arsenal of tools.  And be smart, and do not help them hurt you by broadcasting your life on social media.

Our Experience: 

  1. New York Life Disability Claim Denials
  2. Principal Disability Claim Denials
  3. UNUM Disability Claim Denials
  4. Hartford Disability Claim Denials
  5. Mass Mutual Disability Claim Denials
  6. Metlife Disability Claim Denials & Complaints 

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