Surveillance Video Abuse by Disability Insurance Companies

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The recent Good Morning America November 11, 2009 expose on Hartford’s abusive use of video surveillance of its disabled policyholders is just a sample of the rampant use of video as a way to trap insureds and deny claims. Chris Cuomo reported that Jack Whitten, who suffers from a broken neck from a fall, pain and memory loss was captured on videotape reading a magazine, getting into a car and eating taco chips, which formed the basis of Hartford Insurance Company terminating his disability benefits. His doctors assured Hartford that Whitten has severe headaches, short term memory problems and cannot work at his prior job with Walmart. Hartford denied benefits anyway. Fortunately for Mr. Whitten, once the GMA story ran, his benefits were reinstated.
Other disabled people who are surveilled are not so fortunate. Some examples of Hartford’s misuse of Video surveillance include Montour v. Hartford Life &Accident Ins. Co., 2009 WL 2914516 (9th Cir.)The 9th Circuit found that Hartford relied on surveillance which did not represent Montour’s ability to engage in full time work.
Recently, in Finley v. Hartford, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105516 (N.D.Cal. Oct. 26, 2009), Hartford was again admonished for shoddy surveillance. Hartford relied on three doctors who only reviewed medical records and did not examine Mr. Finley The court noted that the activity shown on the video did not prove that Finley can work full time.
The abuses are not limited to Hartford insurance company.
In fact, surveillance companies, hungry for the business send emails to clients offering reduced rates for special all day surveillance over holidays! We recently received an unsolicited offer from such a company, (confusing us with an insurance company), offering their services on Thanksgiving at a reduced rate of $499.00 for the day, since many people are more active on holidays and least suspecting of being followed. This gamesmanship being directed at the disabled is deplorable.