The Field Interview in Long Term Disability Insurance Claims

In this article we are going to discuss the field interview requests that commonly come from long-term disability insurance companies.

The field interview request is when the insurance company says, “We want to send someone to your home to meet with you to discuss your claim.”

In this article, we want to address some of the issues with field interview requests.

Does A Claimant Have to Permit the Field Interview?

First of all, does an individual have to do the field interview?

You are probably here because you are probably wondering, “Hey, the company just called me. Do I even have to meet with them to engage in this field interview?”

As you will see said time and time again on this website, your obligation to participate in the field interview comes down to (i) the policy and (ii) the obligations and requirements that you have under the terms of that policy. Most policies do not require that you must participate in the field interview process under their proof of loss requirements. However, some policies do. Therefore it is really important to review your policy’s proof of loss requirements carefully to determine if you first have to participate in that field interview with an insurance company representative.

Should A Claimant Voluntarily Participate in the Field Interview?

Assuming you are not required by the long term disability insurance policy to participate in a field interview, then you should still weigh the pros and cons of meeting with the representative versus not meeting with them.

You do not need to worry just because the insurance company called for one.

For some insurance companies, field interviews are simply routine. They may have a protocol where they just say, “Every two years, we’re going to send someone out to meet with you.” And that is just the way that particular company handles the claims.

But then there are certain companies that if they’re calling you for a field interview, it is not a good sign. For example, the insurance company may have just completed a week of video surveillance on you. Then they are going to try and enter your home, sit you down, and go through a specific line of questioning with you. The representative may make you feel comfortable with them. They’ll tell you that they’re not there to harm you or your benefits. Then they pop open their laptop computer and say, “Oh, can you explain what you’re doing here and why were you able to move in this way? And why didn’t you report it to the insurance company?” You may feel like you have your back to the wall and you’re just saying a bunch of random things in self-defense. The next thing you know – the insurance company uses your own statement to deny your claim or terminate your benefits.

Representation By An Attorney?

Given the foregoing, it is our recommendation that you never undergo a field interview without representation from an attorney. If you did do it on your own, you should be prepared.

You definitely want to be prepped by someone familiar with the process who could explain to you what to expect at the field interview. Again, you should not believe that the insurance company is going to your house because they care about you and because they are looking out for you. You must understand that they want to make sure there is sufficient evidence to deny your claim.

The Importance of a Field Interview in the Claim

In many cases, the field interview process is a benign process. The field interviewer may be there to obtain an update; to go through some additional questions with you; to review; to review some recent medical treatment that you’ve had; to update your medical folder, including your current list of doctors and why you are seeing them; etc etc.

In short, it is like preparing for a hurricane. You do not know if that hurricane is going to hit and destroy your home, but you go through the preparations of ensuring that you’re going to limit the damage. The same preparation needs to occur with these field interviews. You need to prepare yourself so you do not cause much damage to your disability insurance claim.

Who Is Actually Conducting the Field Interview?

There are a couple of different scenarios that you might see in field interviews.

For example, MetLife is employing some full-time field interviewers. These representatives work for MetLife and conduct the interviews. Hartford has some full-time employees that perform interviews as well. Unum, on the other hand, may hire a third party company to conduct the field interview. These third parties may not know much about your disability claim except for perhaps what’s on the one pages summary they were sent by the disability insurance company.

There can be a lot of frustration with an interview conducted by a third party. That’s because this person may come to your home, ask you questions for several hours, ask you tons of questions that are already answered in the claim file, and ask you a bunch of questions that may be wildly inappropriate

We try to cut out the duplicative and inappropriate questions to make these meetings go as quick as possible. You should not have to sit there and start talking more than you have to.

What Should You Expect at the Field Interview?

               Where Will It Take Place?

One of the first things to address is where the field interview is to take place. Claimants often ask, “Should I let them in my home? Where should I do this?”

You should not do it in your home.

You should find some neutral location to do it. There are corporate places that rent office. It is better to conduct field interviews in this type of location. Why? Because the insurance company would love to enter you home. They are trained to look around. Given what they see, they may ask uncomfortable questions like: “Oh, you live in a two-story home. How do you get up those stairs?” They are trained to look around your home to observe accommodations for your disabilities. They may ask you to demonstrate how you perform a particular chore – like dusting. They may ask you to fetch personal items. For example, “Oh, can you run up and grab your medications for me real quick? I’d just like to take a look at them.” They take a look at the bottle. Maybe you haven’t filled the prescription in a while, or maybe half the medication is still in the bottle. They may ask, “It looks like you haven’t filled your pain prescription in a long time. Are you having a lot less pain now?” In sum, the field interviews are trained to dig up reasons to potentially deny your claim. They observe and scrutinize everything. So it’s important not to have the interview performed in your home.

               Video Surveillance

You should assume that before you meet with them and after you meet with them, that the insurance company is going to run video surveillance on you for two weeks before the interview and up to two weeks after the interview. Video surveillance is probably one of the biggest areas where they try to get you to say something that is inconsistent with the recordded activities on video.

               Impeaching Your Credibility

Next, the field interviewer is going to go through a line of questioning with you depending on what’s happened in claim process up to that point. If the insurance company has conducted video surveillance, they may question you about different activities that you allegedly can and cannot do. They may go through your claims history, your medical treatment, your doctors and more.  They will review the restrictions and limitations that you’ve claimed. And then they will try to impeach you – or challenge your credibility – based on video surveillance footage or other information you’ve given them in the past. For example, they may say, “You indicated in your LTD application that you cannot bend and touch your toes, but we have this video footage of you bending over and picking up a case of coke off of the floor. Can you explain that?”

               Know Your Social Media

Also be prepared for the fact that the insurance company has already reviewed all of your social media profiles before the interview. That includes the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and more. They are guaranteed to look you up and down the internet, trying to find any single thing they can about you. And then they are going to come and ask you about it. They are going to ask you about the activities depicted in your posts and what you were doing.

               Recording the Field Video

Some claimants also ask, “Do I want to record these field interviews?”

There are primary ways to record the field interview: (1) video recording it; (2) audio recording it; and (3) having an actual court reporter present.

These do add costs to the claim, but are advantages to recording the interview. For example, the field interviewer’s report may have inaccuracies. They write down things you purportedly said, but those things are not what you actually said. It would be good to have evidence to combat inaccuracies.

But if you are not going to record, then you should ask for a written transcript of the interview and a copy of the field interviewer’s report. You may even ask to review a copy of the interviewer’s notes. Wouldn’t you want to see everything that’s being written down so that you can sign off and say, “Yes. I said A, B, C, D, and E.” Then there are no issues. But keep in mind that the companies won’t often give you their notes.

Summary

If you have been called for a field interview by a disability insurance company, we encourage you to call us right away at 850-308-7833. We are experienced disability insurance attorneys and we will let you know immediately how we may assist you with it. No matter where you live in the country, any of our lawyers are available to help you, and we always offer a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you shortly.