Nearly 7 years ago, I wrote a blog about employers and insurance companies using surveillance of injured workers to fight paying workers’ compensation benefits in hopes of finding any reason to reduce or deny an injured workers name. Recently, our Plaintiff lawyer colleagues in other states have noticed use of drones for video surveillance of their clients.
I have not personally experienced “drone surveillance” of any of my clients yet, but I am sure the insurance companies will soon find a way to follow suit in Nebraska. In discussions with other workers compensation lawyers throughout the country, other lawyers have that mentioned insurance companies have used drone-surveillance against their clients in multiple states.
Is drone surveillance even legal? Well, that might depend on what state you live in. However, the FAA does have guidelines on the use of drones and restrictions of how those drones may be operated. Some surveillance tactics may run afoul FAA rules.
Also, many states have enacted their own laws to protect citizen’s privacy from drone-use and cameras. Here are a few examples:
Arkansas forbids the use of drones to invade privacy
California forbids the use of drones to invade a person’s privacy and to record anyone without his or her consent.
Texas Code Section 423.002(a) lays out specific situations in which drones with cameras may be used and insurance surveillance is not one of them.
Virginia makes it a criminal misdemeanor if drones are being used to harass if given notice to desist.
Florida also prohibits a person from using a drone to record someone if such person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the presumption being that someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy if they are on their own property.
While it is good that states are acting to protect privacy from the intrusion of aerial drones, there may be a legal fight over whether federal rules should preempt state laws about drones.
While aerial drones may be used to sniff out workers’ compensation fraud by employees, I doubt they will be effective in stamping out the larger problem of employer and provider fraud in workers’ compensation.
In summary, while I have not seen it in Nebraska yet, it is a possibility that some day drone surveillance will be used here. However, given all of the regulations (along with the cost and conspicuousness of drones) it is doubtful that drone surveillance would be used. If it is used, Nebraska may have to enact some laws similar to these other states with regards to drone use.