The question often arises as to whether an insurance company is permitted to follow claimants with surveillance for days or weeks at a time in order to attempt to discredit their disability claims. The answer to the questions is “yes.” Most disability policies allow an insurance company to invade the privacy of a policy holder by hiring private investigators to follow them around if he or she is on claim or has submitted a claim for disability benefits. This seems unfair and often causes undue stress to policy holders as they feel like their every move is being watched.
Sun Life Hires Private Investigator To Find a Smoking Gun, Court Not Impressed
In Rappa v. Sun Life Assur.Co, a recent decision out of Wisconsin, a Court reprimanded Sun life for following a claimant around for nine days, spending significant dollars trying to catch him doing something he claimed he could not. The court held that Sun Life terminated the Plaintiff’s LTD benefits based in part on snippets of surveillance taken over a nine day period showing the claimant walking short distances around his yard, driving his car and pumping gas, none of which were inconsistent with the plaintiff’s reported activity level. The court admonished Sun Life for spending a significant amount of money having the plaintiff followed for nine days, when clearly there was no smoking gun to be had, which raised questions about a conflict of interest.
An insurance company is entitled to follow a claimant with surveillance, however, if after several days they do not obtain any relevant footage, it is not proper for them to continue following a claimant for days upon days trying to catch him in the act. Dell & Schaefer did not handle the Rappa case, however, every day our attorneys are faced with the task of litigating numerous cases involving the termination or denial of disability benefits after surveillance is conducted on our clients. The Rappa case is a significant decision as it pertains to claimants’ right to free from harassment by large insurance companies looking to terminate their benefits.
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