How Employers and Insurance Companies Use Surveillance Video to Disprove Workers’ Compensation Claims
You may have heard stories about employers or insurance companies using surveillance video to prove an employee is not seriously injured and therefore entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These are not just stories. It is, in fact, a common practice in workers’ compensation cases, particularly when an employee is found to be totally disabled and unable to return to work. Indeed, if you are involved in such a workers’ compensation case, it is best to assume you will be placed under surveillance at some point.
You should also not assume that you can just show up before the Workers’ Compensation Commission and argue the surveillance was “unfair” or a violation of your due process rights. Such arguments often fall upon deaf ears.
Take this recent decision from the Commission’s Compensation Review Board, Schreckengost v. Zwally Hauling. The claimant previously worked as a dump truck driver. In July 2005, he sustained a work-related back injury that required surgery. Although the claimant eventually returned to work, he required a second surgery in November 2010, and his treating physician found him medically disabled in June 2012. At the time, the claimant said he could not “sit or stand for more than short periods of time” and that he did not have any job skills that would transfer to “sedentary work.”
However, in March 2015, two doctors told the Commission they now believed the claimant had some capacity to work after reviewing surveillance videos. These videos purported to show the claimant clearing off snow from the top of his truck, driving a plow, and lying on the ground to work on his truck. A doctor retained to conduct a Commissioner’s Examination opined that based in part on surveillance video, he believed the claimant “had a sedentary work capacity” and was now only partially disabled.
The Commissioner accepted this and other evidence and found the claimant “was no longer totally disabled.” The claimant appealed to the Review Board, but it affirmed the Commissioner’s ruling. As the Board explained, when a person receives total disability benefits under Connecticut workers’ compensation law, they have the burden “of continuing to prove he or she is totally disabled.” Accordingly, a Commissioner’s decision to terminate total disability status is justified so long as it is supported by reliable evidence.
Here, the Commissioner afforded great weight to the findings of the examiner. The claimant argued this was inappropriate, in part because the examiner relied on the surveillance video. The claimant insisted the video should not be considered at all in the case.
The Review Board did not see it that way. It noted the claimant had ample opportunity to depose and cross-examine the examiner. The commissioner was entitled to credit the testimony of the examiner as she saw fit. And in fact, the commissioner also considered the personal testimony of the claimant himself.
Speak with a Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
No matter how genuine or serious your work-related injury may be, employers and insurance companies will always suspect you are “faking” it. That is why it is critical to work with an experienced Stratford workers’ compensation lawyer who will zealously defend your rights under state law. Contact the Morizio Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.