It's not unusual for a personal injury settlement to total in the millions of dollars, especially if the injuries that are proven in the case are severe in nature. As you and your attorney work to establish the nature of your injuries and damages, the defense will find ways of downplaying or even disproving your injuries to reduce or even eliminate any potential payout. Video surveillance is just one weapon in the defense's arsenal that's commonly used to verify and sometimes even undermine personal injury claims.
The Reasoning Behind Personal Injury Surveillance
Insurance companies often rely on video surveillance as a way to combat against fraudulent personal injury claims. According to the FBI, the total cost of non-health insurance fraud is estimated at over $40 billion annually. By cracking down on fraudulent claims, insurers can potentially save millions of dollars each year on payouts that would have otherwise gone to fraudulent claims.
But even with legitimate claims, insurers will spend their efforts reducing their financial risks by finding any sort of proof that would downplay or outright invalidate a genuine personal injury claim.
How It Works
The defendant's insurance provider may enlist the services of a private investigator to monitor your day-to-day activities during your personal injury case. In most cases, the investigator will be stationed in a nondescript vehicle some distance from your home as he or she records video footage. The investigator may also follow you from a discreet distance as you conduct your daily errands.
Personal injury surveillance isn't just limited to cameras and pictures. Private investigators may also monitor your social media accounts for any evidence that your injuries are not as they seem. In most cases, investigators look for mentions, discussions and even photo evidence that could potentially disprove a personal injury claim.
What the Footage Usually Shows
In most cases, this usually translates into hours of boring and otherwise non-noteworthy footage of claimants going to the bank, grocery store, etc. If an investigator is watching your home, he or she will just have hours of footage featuring your front door and not much else.
So what exactly is the investigator looking for? The investigator is simply waiting for you to perform tasks that you may not be able to do if you were well and truly injured. This can be as innocuous as bending over to pick up a dropped piece of mail while you're at your mailbox or carrying several bottles of soda under your arm. It can also be as egregious as lifting weights at the gym or carrying buckets of paint out of the local hardware store.
Although you can be watched in any public place, there are limits to where private detectives can go and what they can do. For starters, they can't trespass on private property just to gain potentially useful footage. This means an investigator can't walk onto your lawn and peer through your windows. They can't open your mail and read the contents, nor can they record or eavesdrop on private conversations unless it's held in a public place and it's loud enough for others to hear it, too.
How to Protect Yourself
If you have reason to suspect that you're being watched, you'll want to tell your personal injury attorney as soon as possible. This will give your attorney an opportunity to request copies of any unedited pictures or video footage taken as part of the surveillance operation. By requesting this footage early on, your attorney will be able to create a defense against any evidence that may negatively impact your personal injury claim.
You may also want to carefully consider your actions while you're in public, so you won't give the appearance that your injuries aren't so serious. You should also avoid posting details about your personal injury on social media while the case is pending. You can click here to find out more on this topic.