Are you being watched? If you have an Alabama work comp claim, the insurance company may conduct surveillance on you. I often tell my injured clients — If the insurance company videos you, we will only see the 5 minutes when you felt good and looked unhurt. We’ll never see the hours of agony and pain.
My favorite surveillance story involves a work comp case I tried many years ago in Huntsville. The insurance company and its lawyer fought aggressively. On the eve of trial, they expected to win. They thought they had surveillance that would destroy our case. The video showed a man lifting big truck tires, loading his truck and performing some pretty heavy work. That sounds pretty bad when your case involves a lower back injury and significant physical restrictions. But, they had a huge problem! A huge problem! And, they did not know it. The guy on the video was not my client. It was the wrong guy. The video showed my client’s brother. Plus, we had proof my client was somewhere else on the day of the surveillance. It made for some fun courtroom action at trial. Nothing like bursting the insurance company’s bubble! We won the case for our injured client.
Over the years, I’ve dealt with surveillance issues many times. It’s not an issue in every case. Most of the time, it’s not an issue at all. But, it is something every lawyer should discuss with his injured client.
How can the insurance company use surveillance against you? Here are four ways surveillance can be used against your Alabama workers compensation claim:
Surveillance Can Show You Are Not Disabled
This is the most obvious use. We’ve all heard the “story” of somebody who “falsely” claimed a disability. The reality is far different. Most people who claim an injury are genuinely hurt. They would much prefer to work or live without pain and injury.
Many injured people have good days and bad days. Some days are difficult. That’s normal. An investigator may conduct weeks and weeks of surveillance but it will never be seen. Only a few minutes will be on video — The moments you felt your best. The insurance carrier will use this limited snapshot to create doubt at trial. What should you do? Be honest from the beginning about your condition. If you have good days and bad days, tell the truth. And, avoid activities which worsen your condition.
Surveillance Can Show You Are Exaggerating Your Injuries Or Disabilities
Honesty is the best policy! If you have trouble lifting heavy objects, that’s fine. But, don’t exaggerate. Don’t claim you can lift nothing at all. Don’t claim you are bedridden if you are not. Surveillance can be used to show you exaggerated your injuries. If the insurance company can show a significant exaggeration, a judge is much less likely to believe you at trial.
One Huntsville defense lawyer frequently tries to bully injured workers into agreeing to very specific amounts of activities. Can you lift this much? Can you lift that much? He will push the injured worker to guess a specific amount. Can you lift 42.5 pounds? Who knows what they can lift down to the ounce? Nobody. But, he wants to push the injured person into a specific amount. Then, he will try to prove them wrong. I think his tactics are dishonest. I think he takes advantage of his position as a lawyer to bully injured people into a specific response. But, that’s a story for another day. The truth is that most people don’t know the exact amount they can safely lift. And, they should not guess or agree if they are uncertain. That’s why the doctor’s advice and restrictions are important. Usually, restrictions are placed for the patient’s safety. (If this defense lawyer is handling your case, let me know. I’ve seen all his tricks.).
Surveillance Can Show You Are Capable Of More
You are hurt. You have trouble functioning. But, the surveillance shows you mowing your grass, trimming shrubbery or washing your car. And, you look pretty good doing it. The insurance company will try to use the video to show you are capable of activities. These are activities that can turn into jobs!
We’ve all heard the old saying — A picture is worth a thousand words. Video is even better than a single picture. What better way to show that you could perform some gainful activities?
Surveillance Can Show You Are NOT Credible
Surveillance is all about credibility — Your credibility. You are the injured worker. Your credibility is the most important issue at trial. Never risk that credibility by performing activities you should not be doing. Don’t risk your credibility by exaggerating injuries to your doctors or employer. Don’t risk your credibility be being less than honest.
What Should You Do?
If you are hurt, be honest about your injuries and abilities. If you are hurt, be aware you may be filmed. If you are hurt, consult and work with a skilled lawyer. Your credibility is too important to risk!
The Blackwell Law Firm represents injured workers across Alabama. If you have questions about a work comp issue, let us know. We are happy to discuss your questions. Our consultations are always free and confidential.