3-9-12; Technology can save you plenty……Check the Footage!!

We have had several questions in the last few weeks with regard to accident investigations including both the use of webcams for recorded statements and time frames for saving security footage to complete investigations. In our view, the better you investigate an accident, the better chance you have of being sure you are paying what you owe for accepted claims, fighting claims that can and should be fought and avoiding future safety concerns that can cause thousands of dollars in lost wages and medical bills.

As we have indicated throughout the past few years, technology has become so advanced it is now so simple to obtain an inexpensive webcam to obtain your recorded accident/witness statements. Memories get fuzzy and people move on so there is nothing more helpful than being able to view the statements and determine the demeanor of the party providing the statement.

There was also a recent news story running on national media outlets which has been sent to us by multiple readers which shows one area of value from checking your loss prevention video footage immediately upon report of an accident. In many cases the footage is only available for weeks at most and checking/saving the footage helps make determinations in compensability. In one instance, you can confirm the accident occurred and be able to make determinations confirming compensability to avoid delays in treatment or benefit approval which many times lead to litigation and increased costs.

In other arguably rare instances, you may find that an “accident” involves elaborate staging and injuries which are questionably related to work. As reported from several sources, including at  http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2012/02/authorities_north_bergen_targe.html, a well-known U.S. retailer had an employee who police say staged an elaborate scheme in an effort to fake an accident and collect workers' compensation apparently forgot cameras were rolling. The employee alleged boxes fell from a shelf as she bumped it, causing additional boxes to fall upon her and then caused her to vomit.

According to the reports, there is a 10-minute segment of video which shows the employee:

  • Loosened a shelf in the storeroom that caused the boxes to fall when she bumped into it
  • Positioned herself under the boxes before pulling a shopping cart containing additional items onto herself
  • After another employee responded to calls for help and left to gain other assistance, the allegedly injured employee hit herself in the head with what appeared to be batteries several times
  • The allegedly injured employee left the area, returned with a beverage and what appears to be Goldfish crackers and after eating some crackers and drinking some of the beverage, knelt down and vomited.
  • And finally, the allegedly injured employee left again, then returned and re-staged the accident scene before taking pictures of it.

The employee later put in a claim for workers’ compensation, saying she suffered neck and back injuries. She was subsequently arrested on Jan. 17 and is currently out on bail. The charge carries a possible penalty of up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

The most common primary comment from local sources we have spoken with indicated surprise the allegedly injured employee has already been arrested and charged with a crime, with every single one of them confirming they did not believe such cases would be prosecuted with such vigor in Illinois, even in the face of video evidence.

Brief research finds internet searches for workers’ compensation fraud in Illinois returns results mostly referring to changes in the IL WC Act in the past 7 years. The most significant examples of WC fraud prosecution actually appear to result from employers using the civil process to obtain judgments against miscreants. The point of this article is-–check your security footage promptly and routinely save it. Consider webcam statements to lock in the statements of any and all witnesses including claimant. For every case which may be WC fraud, there are likely to be many more where you may also avoid unnecessary expenses with a prompt determination of a compensable claim.

This article was researched and written by Shawn R Biery JD, MSCC and he can be reached at sbiery@keefe-law.com or call him directly at 312-756-3701.