WorkSafe spends $15 million on secret surveillance on injury victims

ALMOST $15 million of taxpayers’ money was spent last year by WorkSafe in spying on Victorians who say they were injured at work or on the roads.

WorkSafe and the Transport Accident Commission blame the burgeoning bill on the growth in legal claims.

Figures obtained by Freedom of Information show that in 2010-11, WorkSafe spent $13.7 million watching 6675 people claiming benefits. The cost was more than $1.2 million above the previous year’s bill for watching 6217 people, but it prosecuted just 18 cases of fraud.

In 2010-11 the TAC spent more than $809,000 on surveillance in 501 claims, about a 70 per cent rise in spying, and spending, on 2009-10.

It says that in the past five years there has been a 90 per cent surge in damages lawsuits lodged by motorists.

WorkSafe said it had seen a 20 per cent rise in common law claims in several years.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Craig Sidebottom said the WorkSafe surveillance bill was “extremely alarming”.

“It’s extraordinary that they could waste $14 million a year on snooping and spying. I think WorkSafe are probably spying on more people in Victoria than ASIO,” he said.

He said surveillance seemed to be almost “a default position” and WorkSafe should exercise more discretion, so millions weren’t spent spying on the innocent.

“We accept that people doing the wrong thing should be caught, but WorkSafe doesn’t seem to need a . . . reason to spy on you,” he said.

“They release the hounds with little thought or restraint. Severely injured workers are being made to feel like criminals because they simply seek to pursue their proper entitlements.”

But WorkSafe deputy chief executive Ian Forsyth said surveillance was mostly about determining the extent of injury, not fraud. Often, it led to a claim being reduced or dropped, and helped keep premiums down.

“It helps us make sure we are providing the benefits to which an injured worker is entitled – no more, but importantly no less,” he said.

About 90,000 injured workers a year depend on WorkSafe for benefits. Mr Forsyth said WorkSafe paid out about $1.4 billion a year and increases could affect the scheme’s sustainability.

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper said investigating claims gave employers confidence.

“(It makes) sure people are honest,” he said.

TAC chief executive Janet Dore said surveillance could save the TAC millions of dollars in the long term.

“Unfortunately some people – and it’s very much the minority – don’t do quite the right thing by us,” she said.

She said there were strict guidelines for surveillance.

But Slater and Gordon lawyer Janine Gregory said a TAC claim would rarely be withdrawn over surveillance.

“By and large it’s a waste of taxpayer money,” she said.

From: Herald Sun
October 03, 2011

Slater and Gordon, in a media release, further stated that the surveillance of injured workers is out of control

Government figures revealing that nearly $14 million has been spent on the surveillance of injured workers in the past year has confirmed that the practice is out of control, according to Slater & Gordon lawyers.

Slater & Gordon workers compensation lawyer Craig Sidebottom said the large amount of money being spenton surveillance, as revealed by the Herald Sun today, was “extremely alarming”.

Mr Sidebottom said the funds would be better spent on preventing workplace injuries and helping the injured get back to work than “spying on innocent citizens”.

“I think Victorians would be outraged to learn that the Victorian WorkCover Authority is wasting $14m a year on snooping and spying on injured people,” Mr Sidebottom said.

“Imagine being an injured worker, knowing that people are in cars are hiding around corners, filming you andyour family, for days or weeks on end. They could be watching you when you are doing the shopping, on yourway to see the doctor or even spending time with your kids. “

He said many of the firm’s WorkCover clients had been subjected to “unwarranted and unnecessary” surveillance.

“We are finding that all too often, when someone has lodged a common law claim, they are being followed around and subjected to surveillance. It is a gross invasion of privacy.”

“Our clients are being investigated at a time when they are trying to recover from a major injury and instead of being focussed on that recovery, they are dealing with being filmed and watched while carrying out their ordinary business.”

Mr Sidebottom said the level of funding spent on surveillance needed to be reviewed and capped.

“It’s deeply concerning that the authority does not appear to be showing any restraint in this area. We accept that people doing the wrong thing should be caught, but the VWA seems to be doing it with little thought or restraint.”

Millions are being spent putting good, honest people under surveillance. We question the level of time and the large amounts of money being spent, for what is a very limited return.”

“It is time for the VWA to rein themselves in – investigators should only be engaged by the VWA when there is a reason to suspect a fraud being committed, not just someone is lodging a compensation claim.”

“The VWA needs to redirect its funds to preventing workplace injuries and helping injured workers get back to work.”

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It appears to me though that the excessive surveillance used by workcover is NOT to expose or discover fraudulent claimants, but to use the selective video surveillance material (that 10 second gotcha shot) to mitigate their losses – that is: to heavily reduce the compensation payout to the genuinely injured person. You may want to read our article/post about the tactics used by private investigators to get those famous 10 second shots, to get a better understanding about the abuse of surveillance!

Also of interest: an interesting court case about using video surveillance

 



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5 Responses to “WorkSafe spends $15 million on secret surveillance on injury victims”

  1. It is utterly ridiculous to think that anyone would ever consider putting in a false or exaggerated claim. Who wants to be on workcover for God’s sake? You lose your earnings, your medical treatment (if you get any)is delayed beyond belief, you have to fight for an x-ray, wait months for an MRI, wait a year for surgery, meanwhile you’re getting worse and worse, you become depressed, frustrated, stressed, angry and on top of that you are being treated like pond-scum and a criminal daily by your stupid, non-medically trained case manager! You are send to the worst so called independent insurance doctors on this planet, one after the other, until they find a medical whore who has been bribed well enough to state in their report what the insurance wants to hear, so that your “benefits” can be ceased all together. I’d happily lose my other leg just to get those scumbags OFF MY BACK! Insurance fraud from the part of the injured worker is a myth, just like the Loch Ness Monster. Shame on you! Perhaps take a good look in the mirror and see who’s cheating on who!

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  2. One investigator came to my home, knocked on the door, and spoke to a family member.

    He said that he was a friend looking for me. He asked where I was, “Was I at work?”

    In fact, I knew that he was coming. I knew that the insurance companies tend to send someone around the time of insurance-arranged appointments.

    I had warned my family that someone would be coming and someone indeed did come.

    I informed the insurance company that if ever anyone from WorkCover, the company, or their agents ever stepped on to my property again that all reasonable measures would be taken to remove such persons.

    They are filth.

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    Shame WorkCover & WorkSafe October 9, 2011 at 11:25 am
  3. We should all attend the public rally in the city square demonstrating against Corporate Greed.

    Don’t be scared as there will be alot of support for us there.

    Saturday 15 2011.

    OCCUPY MELBOURNE

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    Corruption and Greed October 12, 2011 at 8:19 am
  4. Please Mr Forsyth, what about psychiatric injuries? How can an investigator determine the extent of anything following around someone with a psychiatric (non physical) injury? You give these investigators and your agents too much credit. None of them are qualified to determine the extent of psychiatric injuries, and what would be determined by observation? It is insulting that we are expected to believe this crap! Thousands of dollars wasted and all that is achieved is making the injured more paranoid and stressed, adding to the injury. How is this logical? Surveillance is abused and used as a tool for trying to obtain material on which to base a termination. WorkSafe guidelines state that there needs to be adequate evidence of fraud and only after all other avenues are exhausted, but this is not what is happening. Especially before a court case or before 130 week reviews, insurers unleash the dogs in desperate attempts to gather information they can use. CM admitted that it is standard and routine practice to surveil all claimants as a case management tool! Thousands of taxpayer dollars are being wasted on “witch hunts” or as one lawyer stated “very expensive fishing expeditions”, which lead to more harm to the person whose privacy is being needlessly invaded and being made to feel like a criminal. Instead those funds could be spent on something useful like investigating the real criminals who caused the injury so more people aren’t injured.

    You have a right to obtain copies of the surveillance reports and any video taken. Also, my understanding is that investigators cannot trespass, record audio or set you up. If you are approached by a dodgy investigator, call the police. I was advised that they are supposed to report in with the local police station before starting surveillance – do you think they do? If you suspect one, call the local station and report the dodgy looking character that’s been parked and filming in your street for hours/days. When you leave your home, check you are not being followed, and if you suspect you are, drive into a police station. You have every right to protect yourself.

    “Fraud”, “misrepresentation” and “malingering” are all excuses used by the insurers to justify surveillance, when there is no requirement of the insurer to provide evidence. No one holds the insurer accountable. The insurer is aware that complaints to WorkSafe or Ombudsman will be ignored, so they continue to abuse the system and injured workers. If I could afford it financially and emotionally, I would in principal hire a lawyer willing to take this on and try to set a precedence. It is disgusting what the insurers continue to do with impunity and the general public need to be informed.

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