When it comes to investigations and surveillance, what are you getting for your money? In recent months, we have noticed a trend of investigations managed by large companies that purport to be more efficient but may actually be less productive for their clients. Here’s what often happens in the workers comp surveillance world:
A claims adjuster from Company A identifies a case where surveillance is indicated. The claims adjuster checks the private investigator vendor list or just calls “PI Company”, the same company that is routinely used. The claims adjuster provides the name, description, location, and other information of the claimant to the private investigation company and authorizes 16 hours for surveillance.
PI Company assigns an “investigator” to the case, maybe a licensed one, but most probably only someone who works for PI Company at about $14.00 per hour and is not individually licensed. Hopefully this investigator has been shown how to conduct surveillance in a legally sufficient manner.
The associate drives to address indicated in the assignment. The associate has been instructed to conduct eight hours of surveillance on this day. The associate takes a video time stamp of the location as instructed. The associate sits for eight hours and sees no activity at the address. The associate takes a video time stamp of the location as instructed and leaves. The associate has no idea if the claimant was ever at the location. The next day, the associate arrives in the morning, conducts the same activity as the day before, and leaves. The associate writes up the activity report and submits it to investigator, who is fully licensed.
The licensed investigator then writes up the investigative report in his name, making it appear he did the work without actually stating so. The investigator concludes that the investigation is completed and that no claimant activity had been observed. The investigator sends the report, a useless video, and a bill to Company A. PI Company bills the 16 hours at $65.00/hr plus mileage for a total of about $1,050.00. The only work actually completed was by the $14.00/hr associate and some clerical work by PI Company. After paying the associate $224.00 for working the case, plus whatever minimal benefits, PI Company pockets the rest of the $826.00. Case closed.
If this is what you have been getting and this is acceptable to you, there is no need to read further. If you would like to know how this could happen and avoid it, read on.
Would you hire the $14.00/hr unlicensed associate, with no formal training, to look for evidence in a murder investigation in your neighborhood? In any criminal investigation? Would your attorney? Of course not. You, and your attorney, would need a professionally trained investigator with the requisite knowledge to locate and gather evidence in accordance with criminal and civil procedures so that whatever is found and collected can be presented and admitted at a legal proceeding. You need an investigator who has years of experience conducting intense and complex investigations, who knows what to look for, and who has successfully obtained evidence in a number of other cases.
If you had the option, who would you rather have conduct investigations on your behalf: an unlicensed associate with little or no training or a fully licensed, fully trained and experienced former police investigator? For about $320.00 more total, you could have had the former police investigator with the years of experience, government training, criminal and civil procedure knowledge, and law enforcement education with a tested and proven ability to conduct investigations, present evidence, and provide litigation support and testimony. In addition, this trained investigator would have the ability to recognize deception and locate people.
Perhaps you believe it doesn’t matter because the associate didn’t see anything anyway. How diligent was the associate in gathering any facts? Were any records searched to see if claimant lived there or to locate any other addresses where the claimant could be? In our example, the associate did not make any effort to confirm the presence of the claimant at the location. If the claims adjuster didn’t specify this, then the associate only had to sit and collect hours – and an easy pay check.
Did the claimant see the associate sitting outside next to the mail box or a couple of houses down in the neighborhood? If so, that could explain why the claimant was never observed. If claimant notices the associate, what are the chances of obtaining video of the claimant’s actual abilities and mobility? Not good. If the claimant is smart, he or she pretends not to notice the associate and then puts on a good act of exaggerating limitations or injuries. Sound familiar? In that case, the report from the licensed private investigator will indicate that the claimant was observed active and was limited in movement in some form and was using a visible medical device, walked with a noticeable limp, had difficulty bending or sitting, or another impairment. What you now have is great evidence in support of the claimant’s claim, which may still be false.
What could be better for the claimant than to have your investigator obtain video evidence that he or she is injured and limited in mobility, even if faked? Having you pay for it.
You minimize the chances of this happening by making sure the “investigator” assigned to do the actual work is experienced in surveillance, is qualified, and is licensed as a private investigator. Have a statement signed by the person conducting the work affirming that he or she actually performed the work. Make the statement a part of the normal forms relayed between your company and the private investigation company.
- Select a private investigation company based on qualifications that include the proper training and experience levels you prefer.
- Inform the private investigation company that all work assigned on your behalf must be performed by a licensed private investigator, not an associate license or company license.
- Verify through the appropriate licensing agency that the PI license is appropriate for the assignment and is current. (In North Carolina, this is Private Protective Services.)
- Obtain a copy of the state-issued PI license of the investigators used for your investigations.
- Obtain a Certificate of Insurance from the PI company to make sure they are properly insured.
- Have the investigator sign a statement on every investigation indicating the work was performed by him or her.
- Use preformatted statements in order to maintain consistency.
- Review the investigative report to make sure the work performed was in accordance with the specifications you directed the PI company to observe when you requested the investigation.
Plan. Protect. Prosper.
Protus3 specializes in security system design, security consulting, corporate investigations and other investigative services. Partner with Protus3 and we will examine each situation to identify threats and develop solutions for your best outcome.