It’s Christmas eve, and apart from whishing all injured workers a happy Christmas and a better New Year, we would also like to remind all injured workers to be extremely vigilant during the festive season, as this is a time where workcover insurers undertake a lot of surveillance. The end of the year is a busy time for workcover insurers and its case managers. The pressure is on to close and settle as many workcover claims as possible and various tactics are being used such as low-ball settlement offers to financially strained injured workers just before or after Xmas; and – of course – surveillance in the hope the workcover IME can blame your injury on repetitive Christmas decoration syndrome.
Merry Christmas but beware of workcover surveillance
Not long ago an injured worker contacted us with regards to having been put under surveillance while decorating her house for Christmas.
The injured worker suffered from bilateral severe carpal tunnel syndrome which came about following years of repetitive check-out cashier work. Her workcover claim was accepted and her surgeon stated in his report that her carpal tunnel was ‘ severe’, requiring bilateral surgery and that she was virtually unable to use both her wrists (and forearms) to lift, type, twist and any other repetitive motions.
Approximately 4 months ago, her workover insurance company ordered surveillance on this injured worker. The initial surveillance report did not show any evidence contrary to the injured worker’s claims. A second round of surveillance was ordered approximately 4 weeks ago.
It is common for workcover insurance companies to conduct surveillance near Christmas and during holiday periods. They do so believing that private investigators might find the injured worker involved in ‘typical holiday activities’, which are hopefully ‘inconsistent’ with the injured worker’s claimed injuries and restrictions.
The hired private investigator suggested that the weekend would provide the best opportunity for ‘catching’ the injured worker, surveillance was set up on a Saturday during the first week of December. The workcover private investigator watched, photographed and filmed the injured worker over that entire weekend (Saturday and Sunday) putting up some outdoor Christmas decorations, and Christmas lights outside her house. This injured worker’s activity included ‘untangling Christmas lights’, ‘lifting lights and decorations over her head’ and using a small staple gun for approximately 10 minutes, while her children watched on. According to the workcover surveillance report, the injured worker ‘did all this with no obvious signs of discomfort or disability‘.
The injured worker told us that she lived alone ( was separated from her husband), and had 2 young children aged 5 and 7 and that, because workcover would not grant her home help or garden help, she was solely responsible for all the domestic “chores” around the house. In this case, that included preparing her house with some Christmas cheer, for the children’s sake. She also told us that untangling the Christmas lights ‘hurt like hell’, as well as using the staple gun, but that she grit her teeth for the sake of her kids.
Unfortunately for this injured worker, the surveillance video made its way to her lawyer as well as an IME doctor. Needless to say, this injured worker’s Christmas became a whole lot less cheery. She is now awaiting the IME doctor’s report and stated she will be appealing the surveillance at the Medical Panel 9In VIC you are allowed to explain surveillance footage).
And so it is that there are a lot of benefits of conducting workcover surveillance during the holiday period.
According to a private investigator, ‘the effort to play the part’ (duh?!) weakens significantly during the holiday seasons. And that injured workers ‘lying about their physical condition get caught up in the spirit of things and forget they are “injured.”’.
This weakness amongst the ‘injured workers’ is therefore exploited by workcover and its hired surveillance teams to get the video that resolves the matter.
Holidays such as Australia Day, ANZAC Day and Christmas/New Year are the most productive for the purpose of conducting surveillance on injured workers.
Merry Christmas guys!