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Video surveillance.

On the surface, the idea of an employer spying on an injured employee may appear insensitive or even an invasion of privacy. But on the other hand, no one can deny that fraud in our system exists. For the employer facing spiralling workers' compensation claim costs and has a hunch that a particular worker's claim is not all it appears to be, video surveillance can prove invaluable in settling a claim or even defeating it.

But before rushing out to hire an investigator, there are plenty of ways to cut surveillance costs and improve the odds of substantiating your case. Laura Kellstrom, special investigations unit, ITT Hartford in Hollywood, Florida, suggests first choosing an investigator with a reputable track record and then ascertaining who exactly will do the surveilling since that person may be called to testify as a witness.

A typical surveillance specialist costs between $30 and $50 per hour, not including the cost of video, travel lodging and mileage. Some companies also add 15 percent for administrative costs. Companies should predetermine payment for where the specialist(s) will stay and the cost of meals. Ms. Kellstrom has found that "it is not unusual to spend a couple of thousand dollars for a day or two." To help stabilize this cost and avoid unforeseen charges, it is recommended that you negotiate for a flat fee if possible and establish specifically what you want done.

The specialist will need to be provided with the claimant's most current address, a physical description and routine of the claimant's suspect behavior upon which you have based your need for the surveillance. The surveillance itself needs to show a pattern of suspect behavior. This is crucial because one instance may appear to a court of law suspicious but not necessarily incriminating. A lot of video footage shot over a long period of time may thus be necessary, but of course this expense must be weighed carefully against the potential benefits.

It is important for a company to view the video once received, not just the report, since the video could be of poor quality. When a surveillance video and report are received, they should be devoid of editorial comments or derogatory remarks. The investigator's name should be included.

Several common pitfalls to watch out for range from the most basic one of surveilling the wrong person to the complicated issue of invasion of privacy or harassment. Even though upon filing a claim an employee opens him or herself up to surveillance, that does not legally include wiretapping, electronic eavesdropping, interception of oral or written communications, search of the claimant's property or any physical contact.

Other pitfalls Ms. Kellstrom cited include the use of poor equipment resulting in inconclusive video, or the camera's not having time and date capabilities so the claimant's attorney can later call into question when the video was filmed. Also, keep in mind that "the courts do not look favorably upon entrapment, so steer clear of companies that use this tactic," Ms. Kellstrom cautions.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Risk Management Society Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Joint Florida RIMS Coverage; employee surveillance for risk management
Author:Kurland, Orin M.
Publication:Risk Management
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:Kidnap & ransom.
Next Article:Return-to-work/incentive programs.

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