TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SURVEILLANCE
Once it has been determined that surveillance is needed, be sure to choose a surveillance vendor that has track record of providing solid results and ask fellow colleagues for some referrals. Once a company has been selected, determine the budget that will be allocated for a proper surveillance/investigation to be performed. RBH&A has the experience and necessary tools to make your surveillance more successful.
If you are ordering a surveillance to investigate a worker’s comp claim, then we always recommend performing a minimum of 2 to 3 days of surveillance to start, dedicating 8 or more hours per day. This should be a minimum to start. Further surveillance and investigations may be warranted based on the results of the first investigation.
Stay away from 4-hour surveillances unless you have solid intel of when the subject will be active. Limited surveillance or investigative budgets will result in a smaller invoice but will seldom provide the results you are looking to achieve. If your claim does not warrant a proper budget for a proper investigation, then you should really reevaluate whether any investigation is needed at all.
Always perform a preliminary investigation for updated addresses or vehicular information. Scour the internet and social media prior to any surveillance. In other words, a good investigator always does his homework. Rgnonti, Blevins, Hirschmann & Associates, LLC performs these types of searches before every start of a new surveillance.
Take a claimant’s doctor and/or therapy appointment into consideration. Obviously, we conduct surveillance on a bodily injury claim to help determine the true extent of a claimant’s physical activity. There are times when we find the claimant to be within their physical restrictions and their allegations to be truthful. Other times, we find the claimant is not so truthful and in many cases is grossly exaggerating the extent of their physical disability for financial gain. A good time to examine a claimant’s activity is the day before, the day of and the day after a known medical appointment. On multiple occasions, we have seen that a claimant moved in a fluid manner the day before and after his or her appointment but then used a cane and limped on the day of the medical appointment. Was there a miraculous recovery, or intent to deceive?
Consider the setting. Many claimants live in a rural or remote setting. The days of parking a surveillance vehicle on a rural road by your claimant’s property without them suspecting your presence are long gone. Performing a surveillance in this type of setting is extremely difficult and in many cases, impossible for the novice surveillance provider. For a company with experience and seasoned investigators, it is still difficult but again, your odds of a successful surveillance dramatically increase. Furthermore, two surveillance agents are generally required if the surveillance is to be done properly, which requires an appropriate budget.
Whether you send a case assignment via e-mail, verbally, or otherwise, an experienced claims handler should strategize with an experienced investigator whenever possible. Working together, they discuss the particulars of an assignment and set a strategy in place. We all live in a very busy world, and time is a scarcity these days. However, a 5-minute phone conversation between an experienced claims handler and an experienced investigator will undoubtedly pay dividends, with better results on more case assignments than if the conversation never took place. Furthermore, conversations between the investigating agency and the claims handler are extremely important during an ongoing investigation, and we never charge for this.
“The claimant is not active, so discontinue surveillance.” Be careful not to adopt a surveillance strategy where you are discontinuing surveillance prematurely. In the summertime, daylight can be as early as 5 am and continuing as late as after 9 pm. That is approximately 16 hours of time when a claimant may be active outdoors and there is enough light to document those said activities. Surveillance should always start early on the first day to see if the claimant is working on the side or leaving his or her home early. If by mid or late morning no activity has been observed, then we do not recommend discontinuing the surveillance, as long as there are no indicators present for such an action. If the claimant is home, then the surveillance should continue. Contrary to popular belief, the odds of a claimant becoming active after a period of residence-bound inactivity actually increase. If you terminated surveillance prematurely in the mid- or late morning hours, then there is no one present to observe your claimant performing activities in the afternoon and or evening hours. Since there is no real crystal ball into which we can look to actually determine when a claimant is going to be active—unless an activities check or a social network check proved otherwise—it comes down to patience and time.
If you are aware of your claimant’s hobbies or recreational activities, then scheduling a surveillance to coincide with these activities is obviously a good idea. Many times, we know a claimant may enjoy activities such as bowling, fishing, skiing, hunting, working out, and so on. However, we do not have an exact time or date. An activities check prior to surveillance may yield this information and if not, a well-educated guess (essentially a strategy between an experienced claims handler and an experienced investigator) is in order.
Last, use a company that has state-of-the-art surveillance technology. Additionally, all investigators should be equipped with multiple hidden camera options so if a claimant enters a public domain, they are equipped and trained to determine the claimant’s activities while indoors or in an enclosed area. The investigators need to know and respect all privacy issues and trespass laws and have good common sense. For instance, there are no known laws prohibiting the filming of a claimant at a wedding or a funeral; however, we would never recommend such a practice.
Be sure to choose a
detective agency or company specializing in surveillance.
You want to be sure the company is licensed
and is properly insured.
We believe that if these surveillance tips are followed, you will see an increase from your surveillance/investigative efforts. This save you time and money and also, most importantly, help claims adjusters identify which claimants may be exaggerating the extent of their disability, and which are being honest and truthful.