I imagine a lot of investigators doing insurance surveillance work would have quite a few ideas about what exactly is the biggest impediment to conducting successful surveillance. Theses might include: -
In my honest opinion, none of the above items rates as the number 1 factor when it comes to impeding a successful surveillance assignment. The number one spot is…..
Due-by dates that are set at a ridiculously short turn-around times are designed by their very nature to produce unsuccessful outcomes. We have a situation here in Queensland where one of the state’s biggest insurers has set a report-by time of 14 days from when the instructions are first issued. This includes matters in regional areas where there is often a severe lack of experienced and capable surveillance operators. To put the size of Queensland into perspective for overseas readers, Texas in the US can fit into Queensland two and a half times.
It will take at least one or two days to initially process the matter (database entry, open/create files, etc.) and conduct the preliminary searches necessary before a surveillance request can even be sent to a surveillance operator. Then there is the reporting on the other end, firstly by the surveillance operator and then the agency who will submit the final report. At best, this leaves around 10 days for the operator to complete the entire assignment.
An operator in a regional area (good ones are few and far between) might not be able to commence the matter straight away due to other job commitments, illness or a number of other reasons. This then starts to decrease the viable time-frame in which the matter can be completed even further. Weekends are often particularly worthwhile surveillance periods, but with a 14 day turn-around, there is now only one weekend available to use – that is if another matter does not specifically require weekend surveillance. The surveillance operator has no choice but to conduct surveillance on a matter with a short turn-around time simply when he can fit it in – not when surveillance should be conducted. If he has a two or three day window of opportunity to complete the assignment, then those are the only days he can work on the matter. If the surveillance budget is for 20 hours of observations and there are two days to complete the matter, then the surveillance operator simply has to put in around two ten-hour days, whether the matter requires it or not.
Imagine a scenario where the surveillance operative learns the surveillance subject is ill – and therefore unlikely to be active. Too bad. He simply has to put the hours in during the days that are available, regardless of whether this is the correct thing to do as far as a surveillance strategy is concerned.
You might be asking, “But surely an extension of the due-by date can be requested to better accommodate a successful result.” Well, this particular insurer does allow extensions to the due-by date, but here’s the rub. One of their statistic figures, whereby they determine who is and who isn’t performing to their expectations, is (you guessed it) how well that agency complies with their due-by dates. Compliance with due-by dates is, of and by itself, an extremely poor measure of quality when it comes to surveillance matters. Surveillance by its very nature is (or should be) a fluid investigation that should always properly target only the most likely times a surveillance subject will be engaged in activity of potential worth. If this means delaying the commencement or completion of a surveillance matter, then so be it.
This insurer has now created a situation whereby claims are being time-managed rather than actually being “investigated” as they should be.
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