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May 4, 2011

Illinois Injured Workers and Video Surveillance

Often when an Illinois worker is hurt his or her doctor will impose medical restrictions during treatment that require the worker to stay off work for a period of time. Similarly, the doctor may impose restrictions limiting the type of work the injured worker may due. If this happens, a workers' compensation attorney can help insure that you are afforded compensation for the time you may be forced to miss, among other benefits you are entitled to under Illinois workers' compensation law.

However, when a doctor makes recommendations regarding your ability to handle physically demanding activity, it is not just a free pass to stay off work. The doctor's diagnosis and restrictions should be taken seriously and applied to everyday life as well. Ignoring the doctor's directions may not only be detrimental to your recovery, but also may have negative repercussions on your eligibility for workers' compensation benefits.

In order to avoid paying workers' compensation benefits to their injured workers, employers may use surveillance techniques to try and prove the worker is not actually hurt, or that they are not as hurt as they claim they are. Even if the worker has a note from his or her doctor, if the employer can produce surveillance evidence that the worker is capable of physically demanding work, the courts may agree to cut off benefits. In recent cases in and around Chicago, workers' benefits have been discontinued due to video evidence of participation in activities such as raking gravel, dumping trash, or even carrying bags of groceries.

These instances make it clear that it is important to follow your doctor's instructions. Even though you may feel capable of typical daily household chores, if your doctor has placed restrictions on your physical exertions, you should heed his or her advice. Not only is it important for your recovery from whatever condition you may be suffering from, but also to ensure your employer doesn't find a way to get out of providing you the benefits you deserve.

November 19, 2010

Surveillance and Workers' Compensation Cases

Sometimes there's more to a workers' compensation case than just showing the causal relationship between injury and employment activities. WIth the rising existence of technology in our lives comes the use of this technology to attempt to discount workers' compensation claims. Employers are starting to use surveillance and even materials from social networking sites as evidence against employees' claims for workers' compensation. Employers are claiming that their surveillance footage or social media materials show that particular employees are lying or blowing the injury out of proportion. As a result, employees have to be ready to explain every movement.

The good news, is that the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission is willing to listen to all sides when technological evidence is presented. In a recent workers' compensation case, the employer presented video surveillance of the employee getting in and out of a vehicle, walking slowly, going into a store and lowering himself to retrieve something. The employer considered this evidence that the employee was magnifying his symptoms of low back and shoulder problems. However, the Commission found the surveillance to be innocuous and not contradictory to the employee's claims of disability and pain. As a result, the Commission awarded disability benefits for a total of 187 weeks.

Another case where the employer used surveillance footage involved a construction worker who was complaining of a work-related injury to his left wrist. The employer presented footage of the worker carrying a bucket in his left hand up a ladder. At first glance this seems like a devastating blow to the employee's workers' compensation case. However, if the employee can show that the bucket was in fact empty, his claim may be able to survive.

What does this mean for a new workers' compensation claim? If you have been injured at work and are concerned that your employer is going to use technological materials to try to discount your claim, do not worry. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission will listen to both sides of the story and your Illinois Work Injury Attorney can help you explain the situation. Sometimes, employees try to work through their injury because they are afraid of losing their job or due to loyalty to their employer; whatever the reason is, this should not prevent you from receiving the benefits you are due.

Pratl v. Reserve Marine Terminals, 18 ILWCLB 70 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2009)
Cyril Tuohy, Watching Your Step with Surveillance, Risk & Insurance Online, November 15, 2010.

November 12, 2009

If you are off work for an ongoing Illinois work related injury, someone may be watching you

As Illinois workers compensation attorneys, we are often asked if you will be videotaped by the insurance company. The short answer is yes, they may be filming you.

It is important for the injured worker to understand that the insurance company may send out a private investigator to follow you around and take video of your activities. This will happen where the employee has been off work and receiving workers compensation benefits for an extended period of time, and the insurance company does not believe that the worker is disabled. It should be noted that it is the insurance companies business to be skeptical of workers compensation claims, and they often act as if most injured workers are less disabled than they claim.

As an injured worker, you need to know that it is legal for the insurance company to videotape you outside of your home, and that these videotapes can be used at a hearing in your case. Many times, the videotapes can be used to imply that your physical capacities are more than the inured worker is claiming. This can happen because the videotapes do not present a complete picture of the injured workers activities throughout the day, just edited "snapshots". For example, an injured worker who is told by his treating physician not to do lifting at work may be able to lift occasionally, for a short period of time and with rest. This does not mean that the injured worker can perform lifting as part of his or her job duties, which may require repeated lifting without breaks. However, the videotape may not show this and may misrepresent the workers physical capacities to the Arbitrator.

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