Are Disability Insurers Allowed to Use Drone Surveillance on Disabled Claimants?
As technology changes, insurance companies are changing their surveillance tactics. Recently, a client of mine reported seeing a drone hovering over his yard. We have reason to believe his disability insurance company was conducting drone video surveillance. Are disability insurance companies allowed to do drone surveillance with a flying camera?
This is not a unique situation. More and more insurers are using unmanned surveillance cars which are left on a street while the camera operator actually sits in another location. Drones are just a variation on this theme. Fortunately, use of drones is regulated. The Federal Aviation Administration requires permits for using drones for commercial purposes. However, insurers have already entered the water seeking authorization to use drones in insurance claims. In 2015, several insurers requested FAA permission to test the use of drones in their insurance business. Have any sought FAA permission to use them in disability insurance cases? That is currently unknown, but in my client’s case, the drone he spotted over his house was engaging in activity that could only be described as drone surveillance, due to the length of time and position it hovered.
There is a law that protects private citizens from unwanted commercial use of drone surveillance. The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act (also called FUSA) or laws like it have been passed in a handful of states like Florida and Montana which not only curtails law enforcement’s use of drones for surveillance, but also provides private rights of action when drone use by private persons or companies violates the statute. In the Florida version, if a person is in a location on their private property where another person standing on ground level could not see them, use of a drone to take pictures or video of them is against the law. One of the good things about FUSA is that it allows a person to sue anyone who violates it. Some states, like Florida, have adopted a version which permits the person who files the lawsuit to recover their attorney fees, as well as damages. For a list of states that have adopted FUSA and the law in your state, visit the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys Domestic Drone Information Center.