Surveillance Can Be Dangerous – and Not Just to Your Claim

11/22/2011

As I sat down to draft my blog this week, the most obvious thing that came to mind was a Thanksgiving/Workers’ Comp connection. I suspect there are some really interesting “Thanksgiving” cases out there. I can imagine an amusing story about a back strain from lifiting a turkey, or even a claim for psychological trauma as a result of having to choose between nuts and brown sugar or marshmallows for the sweet potatoes. I once had a case where a kitchen worker cut her finger opening a can of green beans. But, what I came across is a story, more of a cautionary tale, about the dangers of assigning surveillance.
The story goes – William Wehnke, 51, was walking on his property, with a loaded shotgun, when, he said, he spotted a “turkey” in a nearby cornfield. He took aim and fired, hitting Matthew Brady in the side of his body, his back and legs. Brady, yes, you guessed it, was not a turkey at all. Rather, he was an investigator hired to investigate Wehnke for workers’ compensation fraud. The investigator was apparently wearing dark colored and camouflaged clothing and lying on the ground at the time of the shooting.
Wehnke was indicted for felony second-degree assault and unlawful manner of taking – a violation that claims he used an inappropriate type of ammunition for hunting turkey – no mention was made in the indictment about whether the ammunition was appropriate for hunting workers’ compensation investigators.
Typically the most dangerous aspect of assigning surveillance is the risk of incurring the expense without actually obtaining any helpful footage. But, as this story illustrates, bodily harm may ensue. I suspect also that the injured investigator not only has a viable workers’ compensation claim against his employer, but also a third party suit against the shooter, and potentially the insurance company that retained his services.
The workers’ compensation attorneys at Vandeventer Black wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy good food, friends and family – and football!

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