Whether you have just been injured or you are in the middle of settlement talks, or planning to go to trial, you should consider how Workers’ Comp surveillance works in Georgia cases.  While it doesn’t happen in every case, there are times when it does happen.  This article is going to address the three things you should know about how Workers’ Comp surveillance works in Georgia so you can prevent affecting your case by unintentionally falling into a trap.  

If you have been injured on the job, here are some things to consider and some scenarios to help you along.  As always, we recommend speaking with an experienced Workers’ Comp lawyer, such as Ty, because the law of worker’s comp can be tricky.  Some cases are fairly easy but others can require a bit more work.  However the following will help regardless of the case.  

  • Just because there is a Workers’  Comp case opened, does not mean there will automatically be any type of investigator to follow you around.  Investigators are expensive and it’s time consuming.  They will require time to get to know your routines to determine if you are doing things you should not be doing.  So, if the company is not paying you any benefits (What Are Income Benefits?) they’re not necessarily just going to hire investigators.  Likewise, if they denied your claim, there’s a pretty good chance they are not going to spend their money hiring an investigator to follow you unless you’re claiming some pretty outlandish stuff. However, if you are receiving medical benefits, there’s a possibility that they’ll hire an investigator. It just depends upon how serious the injury is or nature of the injury.
  • If you’re receiving income benefits, you should always consider yourself a target to be followed by an investigator. The insurance company will hire a local private investigator and they’ll follow you for the times when you are out in public. Keep in mind that because of the workers’ compensation claim, there are places and times where the insurance company knows your location.  For example, if you are in litigation on your workers’ comp claim, they will know when you will be in a deposition or a hearing.  This makes it easy for them to have an investigator sitting outside your Attorney’s office who can then follow you from there.  
  • If you have medical appointments, the insurance company has to approve and authorize all medical appointments. This means they will know when and where you will be.  Of course if you are back at work on light duty, they will have that information as well.  

Why Do They Have Surveillance

Many times we get clients who believe the surveillance is a scare tactic.  That’s actually not why the insurance companies use surveillance .  And if the investigator does his/her job well, you won’t even know that someone is following you.  The investigator’s job is to catch you doing something your doctor said you shouldn’t be doing.  Let’s look at an example from real life.

Norman filed a workers’ comp case claiming his back was injured at work.  He stated that he injured it while lifting something in the warehouse that was within his normal job duties.  He said he was taking all precautions to prevent this injury but when he went to lift, he felt something give way and his back “snapped” and he dropped the item in his arms and further injured himself when he fell.  He could not move so his employer called an ambulance and had him taken to the hospital that day for medical attention.  Since that time, he has been seeing a specialist who has advised that he cannot return to his normal job because he cannot lift anything over 2 lbs. and cannot be bending and twisting until his back has healed. 

The insurance company for workers’ comp wants to push back on this because they do not believe he is injured.  One of his co-workers states that he still plays golf every weekend.  To determine if this is true, the insurance company hires a private investigator to follow Norman and see what he actually does each day when he leaves his house. 

Now, if they get video of Norman playing golf (bending, twisting, walking long amounts), they can negate his claim.  They will do this by showing these videos and reports to his authorized treating physician or his main doctor and workers’ compensation claim, and they’ll say, “hey, Doc, we know that you said this person couldn’t return to work, but we wanted to show you this video and see if you still believe they can’t do these different things.”

So, in Norman’s case, his doctor sees him out playing golf after telling him he hurt so badly he couldn’t get out of bed most days.  The doctor feels insulted and angry about being lied to by their patient.  Remember this is all happening behind the scenes when the workers’ comp representative is showing this to the doctor.  Norman is not there to explain that he simply had one pain free day and wanted to celebrate it with his family and that he actually was in pain the entire time.  Norman wasn’t there to explain that his daughter actually drove him around most of the time in the cart because he couldn’t do the walking.  Norman wasn’t there to explain that when he bent down to tee off, he had to stay in one position and be sure not to twist.  Furthermore he wasn’t there to explain that his doctor specifically said “no excessive bending and twisting” and he avoided it all as much as he could but needed to be there for his family for just one day. In addition, Norman has nobody on his behalf to state that he does NOT play golf every weekend.  He played that one day and his co-worker knew he would be playing for his daughter’s 18th birthday celebration as a special request from her.  

So the doctor is angry at Norman so he releases Norman back to full duty at work.   Norman simply gets notification that he has been released back to full duty and that’s that. 

Can this actually happen? Yes.  It can and it does.  We get a lot of calls just like Norman’s.  My first question is usually, “Do you know if there was a video?”  Typically that’s how things change this quickly.  The caller will say, “The doctor didn’t even see me, call me or anything to discuss this! All of a sudden I am released back to fully duty?! How am I going to do that when I can’t even do…” and the first thing we think about is: they have a video of the person doing something they were not supposed to do.  After releasing to full duty, they are going to start trying to shut down the benefits.  

How to Fight Workers’ Comp Surveillance 

The best way to fight Workers’ Comp Surveillance is to acknowledge that someone may be watching you when you are in public if you are drawing any type of benefits.  It’s best to understand what your limitations are and abide by those limitations.  

  1. Ask for clarification on any limitations so there is no confusion on your part. 
  2. Abide by the limitations.  For ex: if the doctor says “no driving until the next visit”, that means you do not drive.  Period.  
  3. Make all of your appointments.  Never call your doctor’s office to say “I think I am better and we don’t need to meet anymore on this.”  In a worker’s comp claim, you must do everything the doctor says, all the way through unless you are otherwise advised by your lawyer.  
  4. Seek legal advice from an experienced workers’ comp lawyer whether you hire him or not.  Ty offers free case reviews so there is no reason not to ask for some help.  If you need more than just a review, he can point you in the right direction.  
  5. Honesty matters.  Be honest with your lawyer.  Be honest with your doctor.  

Contact us Regarding Your Situation with Workers’ Comp Surveillance 

If you need help with your workers’ comp case, you can contact us here.