While the work that private detectives do to gather evidence for insurance companies is honorable work, some do cross over the boundaries of honesty and fair dealing. Our Raleigh workers' comp lawyers have provided some examples of the dirty tricks these private detectives engage in:
- Placing a few dollar bills on the steps leading out of an injured worker’s house or beside his car in an effort to try and catch the injured worker bending over to pick up the dollars.
- Staging a bogus free gift of some heavy object like a case of motor oil or soft drinks. When the injured worker arrives to pick up his “prize” the private detective is there to film the worker bending down to pick up the motor oil or soft drinks.
- Letting the air out of an injured worker’s tires so that the worker can be filmed changing a tire.
- Paying a neighbor of the injured worker to videotape views of the worker through their window and offer the neighbor an extra bonus if they are able to catch the injured worker doing activities which may be construed as vigorous or strenuous.
- Many times workers try to mow their grass to find they can only operate their lawnmower short periods of time. The private detective could videotape the worker for many hours and have only a few minutes of footage showing the worker mowing grass over a period of several days. If this is done during the spring or fall when the worker may wear the same coat every day the detective may splice the film together take out all the footage which shows no activity and splice the combined footage showing all the lawn mowing in order to make it appear that the lawn mowing was one continuous activity without any breaks.
The suggestions made in this section are not intended to encourage the injured worker to defraud the insurance company. On the contrary, we always urge our clients to be up-front, honest and straightforward in all of their dealings. However, evidence gathered by private detectives can be very misleading. If a worker is seen carrying grocery bags into the house, the videotape does not know whether the grocery bag is filled with paper towels or heavy firewood or soft drinks.
The suggestions contained in this section are intended to avoid any misleading impressions that can be made from the work of private detectives. Detectives can follow an injured worker for weeks or months and end up with very little footage. Out of this footage of perhaps five or six hours, the detective will show only that part, perhaps ten minutes of footage showing physical activity on the part of the worker. We advise our clients to avoid being the victim of this type of activity. Not in order to mislead or defraud the insurance company, but to prevent false impressions from being created.
Although some detectives do step out of bounds, the work they perform does serve a useful purpose. Of course, there are a rare minority of people who do fake their injuries and exaggerate their claims. These people are guilty of insurance fraud and should be prosecuted and put in jail for their misconduct. It is the activity of this rare minority of cheaters which make it difficult for the vast majority of truly injured workers to receive fair treatment from their employer and its workers’ compensation carrier.
We applaud and commend these detectives for this work. It should be understood that those that would seek to defraud an insurance company constitute an extremely small percentage of North Carolina workers’ compensation claimants.
When insurance cheaters are caught, it makes for sensational news. For every three minutes of videotape footage showing a cheat who claims to be disabled playing basketball, there are years of videotape footage showing honest injured workers doing ordinary mundane tasks well within the restrictions placed upon them by their physicians. The examples of the rare insurance fraud cheaters create a distorted picture for the public which is unfair to the honest injured worker.