Surveillance is still an accepted tactic in the workcover world, especially in longer-term and more complex cases, including in cases of mental injury/illness. Workcover insurers still try to convince the public that surveillance controls fraud. But for genuinely injured workers, surveillance tactics can cut off rightful benefits and, worse, also cause humiliation and paranoia to the injured worker’s pain, disability, and lost income and joy of life.
Workcover Surveillance adds humiliation & paranoia to work injury
Private detectives trailed an injured worker when he was sufferering from severe depression in addition to a serious physical back injury. His treating surgeon and psychologist urged him to take walks on flat ground to improve his back muscles and to help with his depression… but the injured worker told us they “tried to murder me and blew it all up” in doing this [surveillance]. A pretty profound statement indeed, but a very real sentiment expressed by many unfortunate injured workers who have been subjected to covert surveillance. You see, they wrongly accused him of lifting a washing machine, which wasn’t a washing machine, just it’s light weight outer shell (weighing less than 5 kg) which you could see falling and wobbling on the surveillance footage. Yet they used it to cut all his benefits and accuse him of fraud! It was only after the FULL video footage was obtained and reviewed by a medical panel that it was picked up that the ‘washing machine’ was indeed just the outer flimsy light-weighted shell.
Another injured worker, a psychiatric nurse, was slammed against a wall and strangled by a psychiatric patient at the Hospital. Her workcover insurer hired a private investigator to follow her on her daily walks, recommended by her own treating doctor (a psychiatrist), and driving to her medical appointments. She told us that she was “just so traumatised by the surveillance” and that “it made me even more sick”… “how am I supposed to get better?”.
We hear almost daily from injured workers regarding surveillance. Injured workers also hear about it through their lawyers. Recently an injured worker told us he got married and, despite his severe and ongoing knee injury, he could not let down his bride and danced gently and very briefly with her on stage. The day after his wedding, his lawyer called to congratulate him, AND to ask him to have “that video clip” the injured worker was “tagged in” immediately removed from Facebook, as it may be “held against him”. This injured worker told us that he is “trying his hardest to live a fairly normal life despite his disability” and that he “had nothing to hide”.
Sometimes, surveillance doesn’t show up much or anything “useful”. But for the genuinely injured workers who are targeted, it can be extremely harmful!
You see, even just simply knowing that secret (covert) surveillance by workcover insurers may (and often) happens, discourages many injured workers from taking part in normal life, including activities recommended by their own treating doctors to help them get better. Even those who are not put under surveillance have to live every day with indignity and insult knowing that their workcover insurer thinks they are faking it, that they are fraudsters and malingerers.
Not only that, but sometimes things are taken out of context (eg. a brief dance on a wedding day, a smile on a beach etc), or worse, completely inacurate or beside the point!
Joe had been assaulted at his workplace and suffered a complex fractured jaw, and PTSD. He noticed that he was being followed by a private investigator when he drove to a medical appointment. In fact it happened twice. It was the same car. Joe says he has been traumatised by being put under surveillance… and from reading the Private Investigator’s (PI) report. When he received a copy of his surveillance report, including 6 pictures of him, he nearly fell over. The report dscribed that “The claimant displayed no signs of pain or restriction and was not observed using any visible means supportive device or orthopaedic brace”. Why this was supposed to be in the report is a mystery, as Joe suffers from a fractured jaw! The surveillance report continued that “the claimant was seen retrieving a jacket from the vehicle and left on foot to walk to x [doctor’s appointment]”. So what? But the damage was done. You see Joe has now become even more fearful of strangers after his assault at work and he was also diagnosed with PTSD. This experience has “frightened” him so much he has trouble getting out of the house now. “Why would they hire a private investigator to follow me? They don’t believe that I am in pain, that I’m hurt” he told us.
Surveillance is also especially upsetting to those injured workers who suffer from psychological conditions such as PTSD. In 2016 an investigative news program reported that insurance companies were tailing former police officers with PTSD, often worsening their mental suffering.
However, the use of surveillance is still rampant and used in tandem with cherry-picked independent medical exams (IMEs), is used and abused to harass injured workers and try to get them to drop their claims or rightful benefits.
It is ironic that workcover still prefers to spent a small fortune on private investigators/ surveillance rather than fairly compensate the injured worker.
The ongoing assumption underlying a workcover insurer’s use of covert surveillance remains that injured workers are trying to milk the system. Period.
But the prevalence of fraud has been proven over and over again to be negligible. Some studies have found consistntly less that 1% injured workers'”fraud” but workcover continues to foster the notion that all injured wprkers are fraudsters by publishing and even advertising outrageous fraud cases. In doing so our workcover insurance companies have – of course – been very good in affecting the public’s imagination