There is a whit van parked outside of your home. Perhaps it’s at the end of the street. You’ve seen it parked there all week and a few men in it. When you leave the home, the very same van is following you. You tell your partner that you have a feeling that someone is following you. Your partner tells you to relax and that it’s probably nothing. Your told that you’re being paranoid because you’ve been under a lot of stress and in pain lately. But something is fishy about this van.
You’re not wrong to have these feelings. Sometimes (not all of the time), your feelings of paranoia are justified because someone is in fact spying on you. As creepy as it sounds, it’s true. And worst of all, it’s completely legal.
If you have been hurt or injured in an accident; or have a disability claim against a private insurer (STD, LTD, Mortgage Insurance); there is a good chance that the insurance company you are fighting is doubting the legitimacy of your case. They doubt the authenticity of your claim, the severity of your injuries and they question your credibility. When this sort of thing happens (which is often), an insurance company will use one of its many tools to defeat your case.
One of the most effective tools is in person surveillance. This means that an insurance company will hire a team of private investigators to camp out outside of your home, and follow you around. They may even try to take images of you in your yard or inside of your home. Super creepy.
Some insurers would rather spend tens of thousands of dollars on investigators, medico legal experts and on lawyers fees rather than pay you a single shiny nickel.
What the insurance company is trying the establish is that you are a liar, a cheater, a faker and a fraudster. If they can establish any of the above; they feel confident that they will be able to defeat your claim. In order to do this, the insurer will attempt to create a narrative which they hope a Judge and Jury will buy. They want to establish that at Plaintiff is not trustworthy and is faking their injuries. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by playing movies at trial of the Plaintiff doing things which s/he said that s/he could not do; or which s/he should not have been doing. If they surveillance shows the Plaintiff having no mobility issues, leading what seems to be a normal, care free and pain free life; then a Judge and Jury won’t think that the Plaintiff is injured or disabled. This will take all of the teeth out of the Plaintiff’s case and leave the Defendant in a good position.
What are those things which insurers love to see on surveillance?
- Photos or video of a Plaintiff working (likely under the table for cash), when they said that they could not work. Not only does the fact they are working show that the can work, but it also shows the Plaintiff being dishonest because they are not reporting to the government their income. Even worse is when they are collecting a disability benefit at the same time they are working.
- Photos or video of a Plaintiff lifting really heavy things when they said that they could not lift or do physically exerting things
- Photos or video or a Plaintiff out at a large social gathering when they said they had problems and were uncomfortable being around people in social settings since their accident. Having footage of them having a blast at a party or social function is not a good look
- Going to a theme park, county fair, farmer’s market, dirt bike riding, riding an ATV or snowmobile, riding a scooter or skateboard, enjoying a round of golf; or going to the airport for a trip is never a good look in a personal injury case. All of these things look like way too much fun for a Judge or Jury to believe that the Plaintiff is injured or disabled
- Images of a Plaintiff doing intense yard work, or shovelling the snow when they allege that they have a bad back is always a bad look for a Plaintiff personal injury or disability case.
When an insurance company conducts surveillance, the fact that it was conducted needs to be disclosed to a Plaintiff and his/her personal injury lawyer. What’s seen on the footage or a brief summary of the footage, the company/names of the investigators, along with the dates/times which the surveillance was conducted also needs to be disclosed. The surveillance footage, the videos/images themselves and the surveillance reports do not need to be produced if the insurance company won’t be relying on them at trial.
In person surveillance is not the only form of surveillance. Insurers will also check your out online. Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram are all fair game for insurance companies and within the Court. If you make a living being a social media influencer and simultaneously have a personal injury or disability claim on the go, you will have a hard time making content without hurting your case. Courts have ruled that all of the content which you produce is fair game for an insurer to use against you to defeat your claim. They will question how the Plaintiff from one moment can go from energetic, lively and doing well on camera, to lethargic, depressed and suffering from pain once the camera is off. It’s a hard narrative for a Plaintiff to establish that they are suffering tremendously; when the social media content which they publish paints the opposite picture.
Surveillance; whether it’s in person or online is going to happen. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Unfortunately, it’s allowed at law. Judges tend to lean in favour of insurers believe it or not when it comes to allowing surveillance and what footage can/cannot be used.