As part of every initial consultation with an injured worker, our workers’ compensation attorneys discuss the fact that many insurance carriers hire private investigators to perform surveillance on injured workers. While it would not be cost effective to perform surveillance on every person who has a Florida workers’ compensation claim, the insurers spend enormous amounts of money on surveillance. It is therefore imperative that every injured worker be entirely candid regarding the extent of their injury, medical history, and any income/earnings.
Why and How is Surveillance Used?
In a recent case, Leggett v. Barnett Marine, Inc., surveillance revealed that the claimant was capable of performing physical tasks consistent with his pre injury job. The physical exertion shown in the surveillance was not consistent with representations made by the claimant, which led to a finding of fraud. The JCC held the claimant had made misrepresentations, and thereby forfeited all benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act pursuant to Section 440.09 and Section 440.105, Florida Statutes. In summary, when a person commits fraud under the Workers’ Compensation Act, he/she forfeits any and all benefits.
The basic Florida work comp fraud rule: to establish the “fraud” defense, the employer/carrier must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Claimant knowingly or intentionally engaged in one of the acts provided in section 440.105, Florida Statutes, for the purpose of securing workers’ compensation benefits. This concept was discussed in greater detail in our prior blog post, which you can view here.
Surveillance is one tool insurance companies use to demonstrate a claimant has made misrepresentations. In our ever evolving technological world, an interesting form of surveillance came to our attention: unmanned surveillance.
Below is a video demonstrating unmanned surveillance. It is advertised as “fully automated” and “hidden in plain sight in objects seen every day by everyone”.
As always, we encourage every person to be candid with their work injuries. Often, the bad apples ruin it for those truly injured, but it’s important to be aware of the lengths insurers go to in attempt to combat fraud. Sustaining an injury at work in Florida opens a person up to all sorts of things, being surveilled is just one of them.
If you have questions regarding workers’ compensation, call our office to speak with one of our work comp attorneys in Tampa, FL for a free consultation.
 Smith v. Target; OJCC Case #: 13-029085MRH (Decision issued March 2, 2015)