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Video Surveillance Is Worse than Instagram or You Tube

Burdine & Brown Jan. 26, 2024

I am writing this short missive (a rant with a particular bent to it) about video surveillance initiated by the workers’ compensation insurance companies. Their goal: to force, to push, to intimidate my clients into settling their claims before the right time and especially BEFORE a course of medical treatment has been completed.

Remember first that there are many doctors out there who treat injured workers after a job accident. Most of those doctors are listed on the panel of doctors posted on each employer’s place of business. So, we can assume that most of the doctors have an inherent insurance company bent or favoritism. I have experience this phenomenon in my law practice for over 40 years in Atlanta area, Suwanee, Georgia.

These same doctors, even after a surgery performed on one of my clients, encourages my client to return to activities. Of course, this is a good thing. Surgery should improve my client’s health and ability to function after a course of physical therapy.

The big problem is that the vast majority of surveillance videos obtained after many hours of unsuccessful tracking my clients only show them loading plastic bottles of water into the back of their car or truck. And why is this activity always filmed in a Walmart parking lot? So when this activity, examined by the surgeon, is performed by the worker recovering from surgery, and recorded by the private investigator, is then shown to the doctor who did the surgery-what is the surgeon supposed to say? Does this isolated activity give the doctor (who is shown the video by the insurance lawyer who has made a private appointment with the doctor to “review” the activities of my client), the “right” to be outraged by the video? Does the doctor, at the encouragement of the insurance lawyer, feel compelled to release my client to full duty work after viewing a short video of minimal, doctor sanctioned, activity? Regretfully, this happens all too often.

This reminds me of entrapment in a criminal law setting. The police offers a bag of pot to an unsuccessfully but willing buyer and after the purchase, the buyer is arrested for purchasing the pot from the police officer. The courts all over America have thrown out these arrests. Obviously, there are subtle differences. There is no crime except my client is trying his best to recover from a physical and economic injury (recovering only 2/3 of his salary in disability benefits while recovering from the injury). Now he is being pushed prematurely into returning to a job he may not be able to perform because of a lousy video surveillance.

I will admit that after a surgical event has allowed sufficient time for my client to heal, a surveillance video can genuinely “push” a worker to get back to work but these instances are rare. It is the coordinated effort on the part of the insurance adjuster, private investigator, insurance lawyer and panel doctor that is designed to cut the legs right out from under my client who is still recovering from a job injury.

You ask what is lawful surveillance? The answer generally is that if the camera is in a public place (on a street, in a parking lot) it is legal to utilize surveillance. But a private investigator cannot use surveillance to record a person inside their private home. That is why you see most videos are taken in Walmart parking lots, fast food locations or in gas stations.

In workers’ compensation cases in Georgia, I tell my clients they are participating in a war. The insurance folks along with the employers attempt, whenever possible, to terminate, cut short and generally cut off my client’s benefits wherever and however possible. There is no such thing as mercy, only raw emotion that borders on hatred of the inured person. It is so shameful. Did my client deliberately get hurt. Did my client deliberately decide to reduce his/her salary by 1/3 after a job injury? Yet, if you speak to a claims person, all workers are trying to rip off the workers’ compensation system. Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. We should be reminded of this motto more often as we do our part in this heavily employer and insurer weighted system of laws.