Did you know that if you’re the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you might be under surveillance? It’s true. Sometimes – usually if the case is getting close to an actual trial – the insurance defense attorneys will hire a private investigator to tail the plaintiff for a day or two. The goal? Trying to catch the plaintiff out doing something she said she couldn’t do.
So, what does this look like? Well, if you’re the plaintiff suing their insured, the insurance defense attorney has your address. They call up an investigator to get them on the case. Then the investigator stakes out your house, waiting to see if you come outside. If you do come outside, the investigator will watch what you do out there. Are you taking out the trash? Are you mowing the lawn? Weeding? Shoveling snow? Did you take your dog for a long walk? Throw a ball back and forth with your kids in the front yard? If you have ever indicated you have trouble with any of those things, now the insurance company thinks it caught you in the act.
It doesn’t just stop with your house, either. They will follow you if you leave to see where you go and what you do while you’re out. They’ll even take pictures of you, possibly video. They’ll observe whether you seem to be having any physical difficulties throughout the day. When they’re done, they turn it all into a report to show the defense attorney a timeline of what they saw you do and where they saw you go when you thought no one was watching.
This might feel like a horrible invasion of privacy, and it is. No one wants to be followed. A person who has been seriously injured is being treated like some kind of criminal suspect just because she’s trying to recover for injuries she believes someone else caused. You might feel that staking out someone’s home, following her when she leaves, watching her outside, and photographing her while she has no idea what’s going on is terribly unfair and creepy. Those feelings wouldn’t be wrong, but unfortunately this kind of surveillance is allowed in personal injury cases. And more than that, it can also be used against you at trial if it shows something the defense thinks is inconsistent with your version of the story.
The best way to protect against damaging surveillance video, photos, or reports is for injury claimants to make sure they have always been completely truthful about their injuries and their limitations. Beyond that, it always helps to know what tricks are up the other side’s sleeve, and to be prepared to answer questions about it if the insurance company stoops to invading people’s privacy by keeping them under surveillance while they simply try to go about living their daily lives.