Listen: 5 Tips Adjusters Should Provide InvestigatorsWhen I was a kid we used to play a game where we’d all sit in a line and the first person in line would whisper something to the second person. The second person would whisper it to the third, and so forth, until it got to the last person in line. The last person would then recite out loud what they had been told. Everyone would then have a good laugh because inevitably what the last person said bore little resemblance to what the first person had initially articulated. So it is with private investigators. We often get information third hand; after the employer has told the adjuster, who then tell us.
Claims adjusters are busy. Depending on the company they work for they may be handling 100 to 200 claims at any given time. Because of this they may fail to give you all the information they have on a subject. A successful surveillance begins before you even get behind the wheel. There are specific pieces of key information that, if provided by the claims adjuster, can mean the difference between success and a waste of 8 hours. When an adjuster assigns you a case make sure to get the complete background information. It’s up to you to ask the right questions. Consider the following 5 tips.
A successful surveillance begins before you even get behind the wheel. There are specific tips that, if provided by the claims adjuster, can mean the difference between success and a waste of 8 hours. Claims handlers are usually overworked. When they assign the case make sure you get the complete background information. It’s up to the investigator to ask the right questions.
1. Number and Age of ChildrenWhy should you care if the claimant has children? Because someone has to take those children to school, doctor’s appointments and various other activities. If it’s the subject doing so…then you’re already presented with opportunities to videotape an active subject. Additionally, if the number and age of the children you observe correspond to the subject’s known number and age of children it’s more likely to be the right subject.
2. Light Duty ScheduleI can’t tell you how many times I’ve conducted surveillance on a workers comp subject only to follow them to work. The subject may be on a light duty schedule or may have even been cleared to return to work and the company has yet to notify the adjuster (who has yet to notify you). If it’s a workers comp case make sure you ask the adjuster whether or not the subject is on light duty, and if so, what their light duty schedule is. If they’re on light duty they may not be working their normal job or even at their regular job station. For example, I had a subject that was a bus mechanic. Rather than working in the motor pool his light duty schedule had him at a completely different location doing paperwork. Get this information from the adjuster ahead of time. There’s no need to waste time by re-inventing the wheel out in the field.
3. Picture/Employee IDSpeaking of ways to identify a subject, the easiest is by photograph or an employee ID. But just remember, the photograph on the employee ID may have been taken years ago when the subject first began working for the employer. They may have gained weight or changed their hairstyle since the photograph was taken.
4. Day/Time They Pick Up the CheckWhen it comes to workers comp claims, especially involving employers that are self-insured, the subject is often required to physically stop by and pick up their workers comp benefit check. Normally these checks are made available at a specific time and day, i.e. Thursdays after 3:00 PM. Make sure you get this information from the adjuster. By the way, this is an excellent practice for self-insureds for a number of reasons. First, if you don’t know where the subject lives you can follow him home after he picks his check up. Second, if you don’t know what kind of vehicle the subject drives or how he’s getting around you can find out when he comes to get his check. Third, if the adjuster doesn’t have a picture of the subject they can notify you when they show up and you can get a good look at them. And fourth, after the subject gets her check she will often cash it and then run errands. You’ll be presented with plenty of opportunities to observe the subject active.
5. All Phone NumbersAnd finally, get the phone numbers. All of them. I know many insurance companies such as The Hartford and Liberty Mutual do not want any pretexting of the subject whatsoever and may be leery about providing phone numbers to the investigator. That’s fine. Just make sure you tell the adjuster that you need the phone numbers so you can reverse them for the addresses. This is especially important if the subject’s provided address is no more than a mail drop or a relatives house. There are certainly more than 5 pieces of information you’ll need from the adjuster to ensure a successful investigation, but these 5 will get you started. In fact, these 5 are often overlooked. And in this business having the proper information can mean the difference between success and failure out in the field. Until next time, This is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe reminding you the game…is afoot!
About The Utah Gumshoe PodcastThe Utah Gumshoe Podcast follows the real-life exploits, riveting case stories, investigative tips and insightful advice of Scott Fulmer, The Utah Gumshoe. Scott is a 20 year veteran Utah private investigator, surveillance expert and President/CEO of intellUTAH, a private investigation firm based in Salt Lake City. He has written numerous articles on investigative and surveillance techniques that have appeared in PInow.com and other industry journals. He is a decorated combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War where he served with the famous 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels). Whether you're a novice or an experienced investigator this is the podcast for you.
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