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Overcoming Misleading Surveillance Video in a PTSD Case

Russ Haugen

undefinedIn August of 2010, I received a call from a potential client. He had just discharged his prior attorney so I scheduled a meeting with him to provide a free initial consultation. At the time of our meeting he brought in several documents and most importantly, a disc with hours of surveillance that was taken of him by a private investigator hired by the worker’s compensation insurance carrier. Based upon this video surveillance, the insurance company had terminated his workers’ compensation benefits.

This client had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following a horrific incident at work where he witnessed the death of a co-worker. As a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder, he was never able to return to work as a heavy-machine operator. In fact, his psychiatrist and psychologist didn’t think that he could go back to any type of gainful employment based upon his ongoing disability as a result of the post-traumatic stress disorder.

The client went on to explain that after a recent pre-trial conference the insurance company offered $110,000.00 to settle the case. During this conference, the defense attorney argued that the video surveillance taken of the client was inconsistent with his claim for disability. The surveillance allegedly showed him doing activities that seemed to suggest that he was working as a delivery man. Based upon the outcome of this pre-trial conference, it was recommended that the client accept the offer of $110,000.00.

The client was not interested in settling his case for this amount and didn’t feel that his attorney believed his reasonable explanation of the activities he was engaged in during the video surveillance. After meeting with the client, I reviewed the hours of video surveillance. I felt that the activities the client was engaged in could easily be explained as routine daily activities and was not inconsistent with his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Based upon my review of the surveillance, I was confident that we would be successful in negotiating a higher settlement or arbitration award on the client’s behalf. After securing a favorable opinion from my client’s treating psychiatrist and undergoing several intense negotiation sessions with the defense attorney, I was successful in doing just that. I’m happy to report that we recently settled his case for an amount in excess of $350,000.00. This settlement is more than three times the amount his prior attorney had recommended he accept.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a thousand words can render a picture worthless…

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