The use of drones as a new way to gather information and decrease the costs of long term disability insurance claim investigations is on the rise.
Why Do Insurance Companies Use Drones to Spy?
Insurance companies have the duty of investigating disability insurance claims. Most insurance claims are legitimate claims filed by truly disabled individuals. But the disability insurance company doesn’t want to pay out any more than they have to in claims. That is why they enlist the help of private investigators to gather photos and videos of claimants without their knowledge to use against them. Since 2015, more and more insurers and investigators have been using drones to conduct investigations for insurers.
So, to answer the question,
Is Surveillance by the Insurer Legal?
Yes, surveillance by the insurer is legal. It is increasingly common for insurance companies to investigate disability insurance claims, especially if they have high expected payouts. Several types of surveillance exist, including background checks, video surveillance, and social media surveillance. This is why it is important never to try to overdo it during daily activities, no matter how hard that may be. You never know when your insurer or private investigators will monitor you. They can film you outside your home and even follow you to the grocery store or gas station, then use the data to justify denying your claim.
The Rise of Drone Usage
For years, insurance companies used basic surveillance techniques like the classic man in the van, taking pictures outside your home, and talking to your neighbors. Social media surveillance, where the insurance company reviews your various social media profiles, is also common. But since 2015, insurance companies have been requesting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to allow them to use UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to conduct surveillance on claimants.
At first, these aircraft were used to examine large-scale property damage, like after hurricanes or tornadoes. As technology advances, they are using unmanned aircraft to investigate smaller claims like bodily injuries and disability claims. The use of drones still requires a person to be within the area of the place they are conducting surveillance but allows them to get a “closer look” without being noticed. Private investigators now provide and market their drone technology and services to insurance companies.
Drone Use Risk
While drone use is on the rise, some insurance companies are cautious about using drones and prefer to rely on older, less risky forms of surveillance like social media and video surveillance. They worry about possible property damage to the claimant if a drone loses power or “bad driving” causes the drone to crash, causing damage. There is also a question about privacy violations. While private investigators can use long lenses to acquire hard-to-reach shots, drones can fly right up to the insured claimant’s bedroom window to capture sensitive and inappropriate images that violate the privacies of the claimant. Insurers who use drones could open themselves to a lawsuit if a claims specialist uses these inappropriate images.
Protecting Yourself Against Drones
Don’t Overdo It
Always follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to managing your disability. Think again if you are having a good day and want to do some light yard work. A drone may be flying over your home without you even knowing it. The last thing you need during your disability claim process is a need to defend yourself because you carried heavy loads of trash to the can. This has always been the hardest directive for people to follow. When you feel good, you naturally want to get out and move. Ensure your doctor has approved it, and you note it in your journal.
Keep a Journal
Using a journal during the disability claim process to document your appointments and daily symptoms will help you combat any negative surveillance evidence obtained by the insurance company. Insurance companies are notorious for clipping only the most incriminating photos and videos to use against you. But if you have a log that shows what you were doing and why you were doing it, you will have a better defense if confronted by the insurance company. You could even provide a copy of your journal for the insurer to review but maintain a copy for your records.
Hire a Disability Insurance Attorney
The best way to combat tricky insurance company tactics like drones is to work with an experienced disability insurance attorney. Disability attorneys are well-versed in privacy laws and know how to handle violations. As more insurers hire private investigators using drones, there will be more regulations and court cases regarding how close drones can get to your property without violating your privacy.
Staying proactive is the best way to establish a solid claim. The Ortiz Law Firm represents claimants through all stages of the appeal process, so it is never too early to consult with us. Our office offers a free consultation with no obligation to use our firm. During the call, you can ask any questions you have about the use of drones by the insurance carrier in your claim, and we will answer them. The Ortiz Law Firm has successfully represented people in disability cases across the United States, and we have taken on all of the major insurers, such as Cigna/New York Life, Unum, Lincoln, Standard, and MetLife.
For legal advice and to see how we can help you win your long-term disability insurance claim, call us at (888) 321- 8131. We offer a free case evaluation to claimants whose benefits have been wrongfully denied or terminated.