Category Archives: Surveillance

Is Rockwell singing about my workers’ comp case?

If you were at Harold’s Chicken & Ice Bar last night about midnight, you might have heard me perform Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” at karaoke night.  It sounded exactly like this, in fact:

I chose this song because 1) it’s underrepresented on karaoke nights and 2) it’s relevant to my law practice. The latter is true because insurance adjusters love surveillance, even though 95% of the time, it’s a waste of time and money (in my experience and observation when doing defense work years ago). That said, it’s wise to be aware of your likelihood of being watched if you file a workers’ compensation claim (or other injury claim) to avoid giving an incorrect perception of your injuries and abilities.

If you have recently applied for workers’ compensation benefits, you can almost certainly expect that a private investigator is watching you. Adjusters hire these folks to catch you making a “wrong move” with the goal of suspending your workers’ compensation benefits or discrediting you with your treating doctor (who will already be cynical toward you if he’s someone to whom you were sent by the workers’ comp insurer).

When leaving the house to drive your child to school, there may be somebody outside of your home hoping to get video footage of you lifting up your child into his car seat, or even something as simple as taking out the trash. Once you leave the home, a detective may even follow you to catch you in the middle of some form of physical activity that could result in a cancellation or suspension of your benefits. Often times, the insurance companies know exactly where you are going and when you will be there, since they schedule your doctor’s appointments. The  investigator may be sitting across from you in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, looking like another patient, but they are watching your every move.

Just as you tell your children to be wary of the stranger in the overcoat advertising free candy by the playground, I would avoid small talk or other interactions with  strangers whom you may see at medical appointments or around your home if you’re in the middle of litigation.  Instead, yell, “STRANGER DANGER!” and call the police. I’ve found this to have amusing results when I tell the opposing attorney about it (or, better yet, when I hear it from the opposing attorney).

Can workers’ comp claim investigators use my Facebook feed as evidence?

keyboardIn the midst of a workers’ comp case, most insurance companies will use whatever they can get their hands on to protect their assets—including social media. Although a legal precedent has not been set, some courts have allowed the use of photos and personal information posted to social media sites as evidence for a plaintiff’s condition, or what they perceive as the lack thereof.

In the past, Supreme Court judges have openly reminded defense attorneys that asking for evidence, such as access to a plaintiff’s social media accounts, doesn’t guarantee access to that information. In order to request and receive such evidence, eager defense attorneys not only need to explain why they need the information, but also prove that it can’t be gained via the usual means, such as interrogatories and depositions.

Even though it seems that most workers’ comp plaintiffs’ Facebook feeds are safe from the prying eyes of suspicious defense attorneys, it pays to be prudent about what you choose to share with the public. Here are a few basic tips for maintaining both your privacy and the integrity of your workers’ comp case:

When in doubt, don’t.

If you are involved in any kind of workers’ comp case, don’t talk about it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or your blog. If you have to ask yourself, “Should I post this?” then the answer is probably a resounding “No!”

Be proactive about your privacy.

If you don’t want anyone stumbling upon what could be perceived as compromising images or information about you, be smart about your social media privacy settings. Lock down your Facebook page, privatize your Twitter account, and make sure your blog is password-protected.

Think about how your posts relate to your workers’ comp case.

If a serious back injury sustained on the job has put you out of commission, you probably shouldn’t post pictures of last week’s pick-up basketball game—even if you were just the referee. Think long and hard about how an insurance company might interpret any photos or information before you click “Publish.”

In conclusion, use common sense—if you wouldn’t want a defense attorney asking you about your latest Tweet or Facebook profile picture in court, don’t post it.

For legal questions or concerns, contact Atlanta workers’ comp attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432, or visit him online at www.atlanta-workers-comp.com.

Can the workers’ comp defense attorney threaten to have me deported to force a low settlement?

Imagine this scenario:

A nursing home employee–let’s call her Janice–is injured on the job when she slips and falls on an unmarked wet spot on the floor. She immediately reports the injury to her supervisor and proceeds to file a request for medical benefits, temporary disability benefits, and whatever else she may need in the time that she spends recovering from her injury.

Janice’s employers look over her request for temporary disability and medical benefits, and frankly, they don’t want to play ball. Still, they know that things could get ugly if Janice was outright denied financial and medical support during her time of need. What if she brought in an attorney and sued for late payments and legal fees?

So, instead of playing by the rules, Janice’s employers decide to do a little research on their injured employee. Lo and behold, they find that Janice is not a legal citizen of the United States–her Visa expired ages ago, and she hasn’t made any attempts to renew it.

The next day, Janice’s employer gives her a call, and explains that they will provide her with temporary disability payments, but nothing more. Of course, Janice protests–after all, she wouldn’t have been injured if it weren’t for the careless behavior allowed by the facility. But when she learns her employer knows about her expired Visa, Janice is afraid to press the issue or seek legal assistance.

Despite the widespread discouragement of this practice, it still pops up in unexpected places, ranging from divorces to workers’ compensation cases and medical malpractice suits. Although hope may spring eternal for these attorneys and clients, the fact remains that the civil adjudicative process exists to help settle public disputes, while the criminal justice process is specifically designed for the protection of society — in most civil cases, society as a whole is not placed in jeopardy, and as such, the threat of criminal charges is not only unethical, but wholly irrelevant.  If such a threat is made to you by or through an attorney, contact the local bar association and report the behavior immediately, and the offending lawyer will be disciplined.

At Moebes Law, we believe in getting you the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact Atlanta’s leading workers’ compensation firm at (404) 354-5432 for a free consultation today.

Public sex act exposes California woman’s miraculously healed workplace injury

While the vast majority of workers’ compensation claims are not fraudulent (in a combined ten years of practicing on both the defense and plaintiffs’ side, I’ve seen exactly zero), some unfortunately are. Of those that are, some are more ridiculous than others or are caught in fairly comical ways. While there are all sorts of ways to be caught out in a lie, in the case of a California woman, an X-rated frolic in a public park was her undoing.

According to the Associated Press, 29-year old Modupe Adunni Martin of Hayward, California, formerly worked as a janitor for the Sequoia Union High School District in Redwood City. In February of 2009 she reported an ankle injury and claimed that it left her unable to walk. As a result, Martin made ten visits to doctors over a three-month period in 2009.

A co-worker was suspicious that Martin was exaggerating and alerted the school district, which then contacted investigators with that information. Investigators from the District Attorney’s insurance fraud unit began to use hidden cameras near the offices of doctors that Martin was seeing. She was seen in camera footage leaving her appointments on foot, without crutches. In August of 2009, Martin was caught on videotape tossing her crutches into a car, then running to meet up with her boyfriend in a public park.

She did this “little jog” while wearing high heels that she’d slipped on at a nearby gas station, according to a witness.

When Martin arrived at the park, she took part in a sex act that doctors concluded could not have been possible with an injured ankle, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

“I guess love just helps one get over injuries,” Wagstaffe said in a phone interview last month.

Martin was arrested and charged with ten counts of insurance fraud. In October 2012 she pleaded no contest to felony workers’ compensation fraud. In December she was sentenced to nine months in jail in San Mateo County. In addition, she netted three years of supervised probation and was ordered to pay more than $79,000 in restitution.  In summary:  probably not worth it.

Workers’ compensation claimants think, “I wonder who’s watching me now? The IRS?”

Workers’ compensation clients sometimes call to tell me how strongly they identify with Rockwell, who told us in 1984 that somebody was watching him.  Why is this?

Sometimes when an adjuster believes a workers’ comp claimant is being dishonest about how injured he is, the adjuster will hire an investigator to follow the claimant for a day or two with a video camera.  If you’re on workers’ compensation benefits and see someone who appears out of place or to be following you, I recommend smiling and waving.  Or, you can do as one claimant did when I was still defending insurance companies, and call the police, which will certainly embarrass the investigator and probably ensure that he won’t follow you again.

Surveillance is admissible if the proper foundation is laid, but if your attorney does not frequently handle Georgia workers’ compensation claims, he or she may not know to request  surveillance before trial or how to address it when it is sent.  I recommend working with an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney who has faced issues like this from both sides of a workers’ comp claim.  Otherwise, your claim may go the way of Rockwell’s singing career.