It is important to remember that employers and their insurance companies can and do conduct surveillance on injured workers who are off work due to a work injury. The purpose of this surveillance is to detect fraud, and determine the extent of a person’s disability by watching what activities they do. It is accomplished by following the employee as the employee conducts his/her daily life activities and usually filming them.
Videotape evidence and investigator testimony can be admitted during an administrative hearing before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. These videos can be used as evidence for or against the injured worker. The evidence is demonstrative. In other words, it demonstrates what an employee can or cannot do based on what activities they are actually participating in.
In most cases, the evidence or testimony does not affect the injured worker’s ability to receive workers’ compensation benefits because the surveillance does not demonstrate the injured worker is conducting activities outside of their medical restrictions. However, it is very important that an injured worker be aware of these activities and remember that they could be watched when performing their daily activities while off of work.
It is also important to note that these investigators may attempt to talk to family members or neighbors. They will pose as something they are not in order to gather information. This is acceptable in most instances.
The courts in Illinois have recognized that an employer or their insurance company can be sued in court by the employee when the surveillance is overly intrusive. An example of surveillance being overly intrusive is when a private investigator gained entry into the employee’s home using a fake story, which was that he was looking for a missing child. In that particular instance the court found that the employee could file a lawsuit against both the employer and the company that conducted the surveillance for the intrusion. It should be noted that this is a rare outcome and that this involved entry into the employee’s home, which is very rare.
If you are restricted from performing certain activities, then those activities should not be done as they could result in the loss of workers’ compensation benefits and more importantly lead to prolonged or worsening injury.
If you have any questions on the subject, please contact us.