It is no secret that insurance companies perform routine surveillance to confirm the authenticity of the claim under review. The last thing a disabled claimant wants to worry about is being secretly followed by an undercover investigator especially on his or her birthday. Unfortunately, this is a pattern we have been seeing in disability claims with Hartford. Disability carriers will most often perform surveillance right around or during an IME exam, or several months before a definition of disability changes from own-occupation to any occupation. Hartford is well known for performing surveillance a few weeks or days before and/or after an in-person interview of the claimant.
We regularly receive calls from claimants worried that they are being followed by an investigator. Some insurance companies—like Hartford—are predictable as to when surveillance will be performed. One of our clients contacted us when Hartford terminated his long-term disability claim based primarily on an “activities check” – Hartford’s term for surveillance – which had been conducted on our client’s birthday. Mr. B had been on claim for over 4 years due to chronic pain syndrome, degenerative disc disease, neuropathy, severe low back pain and neck pain, as well as other disabling conditions.
Hartford had conducted surveillance on several occasions and had consistently reported that Mr. B lived an inactive lifestyle. Due to the severity of his symptoms, Mr. B would rarely leave his house for extended periods. On his birthday, Mr. B and his partner decided to celebrate by having dinner and going to a casino – a very rare activity and certainly not an accurate representation of Mr. B’s usual daily undertakings. The video surveillance consisted of short snippets of video and served as the basis for Hartford terminating Mr. B’s LTD claim.
On Appeal, we focused on the unreasonableness of Hartford’s decision to terminate Mr. B’s claim. Hartford had completely ignored Mr. B’s inactivity the entire day following his birthday – as Mr. B was undoubtedly suffering the effects of his birthday “activities.” The appeal also included additional evidence supporting Mr. B’s claim which ultimately led to Hartford overturning its denial. Mr. B is currently on claim and continues to be represented by our firm.
At the time it was unclear if Hartford had strategically chosen Mr. B’s birthday to perform an activities check or if it was merely a coincidence. Recently, we received a call from a claimant receiving long term disability benefits from Hartford who had received a denial letter based on surveillance video and an in-person interview that was requested by Hartford shortly after the activities check.
Upon reviewing the denial letter it came as no surprise that the activities check happened to coincide with Ms. W’s birthday. Coincidentally, Ms. W’s husband’s birthday happened to fall on the day before. Shortly following Ms. W’s birthday Hartford requested an in-person interview with Ms. W. Ms. W described her capabilities as she believed them to be and explained what her daily activities typically consist of. Several months following the interview, Ms. W was notified that her claim was terminated. The denial letter detailed the activities check and Ms. W’s interview answers.
Other carriers have been known to perform surveillance on days that the insurance company expects the claimant to be most active. After years of handling claims with Hartford it is clear that Hartford likes to perform surveillance on or around their claimants’ birthdays.
While video surveillance is common it is rarely a problem unless the claimant is seen doing something that he or she has claimed they cannot do.