Yes. Insurance companies spy on you when you have an insurance claim by hiring private investigators to follow you and do video surveillance.
Insurance companies also look for existing video recordings from video cameras belonging to the insured and video cameras at an accident scene that are not under the control of the insurance company. They will look for videos that show the accident and what was happening both before and after the accident.
For What Insurance Claims Do Insurance Companies Use Video Surveillance?
Video surveillance can be used to spy on you for any kind of claim, from fire claims to theft claims, but insurance companies frequently use video surveillance for disability claims and personal injury claims such as:
- Car accident cases
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall cases
- Trip and fall cases
- Construction accidents
- Elevator accidents
- Worker’s Compensation cases
How Often Do Insurance Companies Use Private Investigators to Do Surveillance?
Insurance companies don’t use video surveillance as often as people think, but it isn’t uncommon.
As a personal injury lawyer, it’s pretty easy for me to know when an insurance company will spy on our clients using a private investigator to follow our clients around with video surveillance.
You can see below if you’re likely to be a target of video surveillance in a personal injury case. When a case gets to that point, we warn our clients that private investigators may be sent to do video surveillance.
But you can also see, below, almost the exact time during your personal injury case when you are most likely to come under the video surveillance of a private investigator.
How Can I Know if an Insurance Company Will Use Private Investigators to Spy on Me?
It’s fairly easy to predict when an insurance company will hire a private investigator to follow you to spy on you with video surveillance.
Insurance companies are most likely to hire private investigators to follow you and do video surveillance of you when:
- The insurance company has a large insurance policy covering the accident, usually when the insurance policy is $250,000 or more.
- Your case has moved from the claim stage to your lawyer filing a lawsuit in court.
- Your lawsuit has progressed to your testifying at a deposition.
- You are claiming that you still have pain and difficulty with daily activities and/or
- You are claiming a serious injury.
When Will an Insurance Company Use Private Investigators to Spy on Me?
The most common time during a personal injury case when you can expect to be followed by a private investigator to spy on you with video surveillance is within days to weeks after you testify at your deposition.
Why Will You Be Surveilled After Your Deposition?
After you testify at your deposition, the insurance company will know what you claim to be your injury and how you claim it affects you during your daily activities and life.
The insurance company will get a written transcript of everything you said during your deposition so they know what they want to find out about you. The insurance company will probably give a copy of your transcript to the private investigator.
Will I Know When Private Investigators are Spying on Me?
It’s not likely. We have had clients who thought someone was parked in a car outside their house or saw a strange car driving by too frequently, but there is no way for us to know if those incidents were insurance investigators.
In every case where an insurance company sent us surveillance video, the clients never knew they were being followed and recorded.
Investigators are experienced in surveillance. It’s not like on TV where an actor sees a car following right behind them. Investigators can use two cars and stay far away from you. When not driving, investigators use cameras with telephoto lenses and can stay far away from you.
If you were caught on surveillance video and your personal injury lawyer isn’t happy, call us. We don’t care. We know how to counter video surveillance during settlement discussions and at trial.
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Why Do Insurance Companies Use Private Investigators to Do Video Surveillance?
Insurance companies use video surveillance to defeat claims or minimize the amount of money the insurance company will have to pay to settle your claim.
The insurance company will use video surveillance to dispute what you have testified to at your deposition. That’s why the most common time the insurance company will spy on you is after your deposition.
If I Have a Legitimate Claim, Will the Insurance Company Still Spy on Me?
Yes. An insurance company will request investigators to obtain video surveillance if your case meets the conditions in the above paragraph, How Can I Know if an Insurance Company Will Use Private Investigators to Spy on Me?
We always advise our clients to be careful when outside of their house. You could be carrying an empty box, and when caught on video, no one can tell if the box was empty or heavy.
How Do Insurance Companies Use the Video Surveillance?
The insurance company will use the video to show that you either exaggerated or lied about what you cannot do or have difficulty doing.
Woman Caught on Video Surveillance Doing Something Embarrassing in a Car
In one of our cases, our client testified at her deposition that she suffered severe pain from a TMJ injury with two surgeries and that the injury prevented her from lifting heavy things and dancing, which she liked to do frequently. See what a TMJ injury is.
There was a large insurance policy for a national company with unlimited assets, and our client had a serious injury, so the insurance company hired a private investigator to follow her and do video surveillance.
The private investigator parked on the street where she lived to begin surveillance of her. The private investigator obtained a video of her taking out the garbage, which the insurance company used to show that she could lift things.
The private investigator also followed her to a nightclub waiting in the parking lot all night. Later in the night, the private investigator obtained a video of her in a man’s car appearing to show her giving oral sex to the man who was not her husband. Not only did this pose a potential embarrassment for her, but what she appeared to be doing was not good for someone who claimed she couldn’t open her mouth because of severe pain from a TMJ injury!
BTW, I knew that my client really did have a serious TMJ injury with very severe pain. I also knew that she was able to go to the nightclub and do what she was doing in the car only because she would drink heavily, which killed the pain. When I was at a wedding with extreme back pain, I found out that alcohol does, indeed, kill all pain but only for a short time. Find out how to prevent back pain after a car accident.
Because of the video, the insurance company would not offer a reasonable settlement, and the case went to trial, where a jury awarded our client $1.3 million, which was reduced by the judge to $567,000.
Woman Seen on Store Video Not Falling in the Hole
In a trip and fall case, a woman tripped and fell while walking out of a supermarket and injured her back. The exit was smooth asphalt with a hole that looked like it was designed to trip people, so she and we thought she was tripped by the hole.
The store signed an affidavit that there was no video, but after her deposition, the store found one! Unfortunately, the video showed she did not trip on the hole.
We filed a motion to get a court order prohibiting the store from using the video at trial but also, unfortunately, the court allowed the store to use the video.
Fortunately, we were able to settle the case at a mediation for a reasonable settlement. For some reason, the insurance company never mentioned the video.
Elevator Video Showed Our Client Flirting With Firefighters
In an elevator accident case, our client said she got a lower back injury when an elevator fell and crashed with six people inside the elevator.
The elevator was stuck below the floor, and the doors wouldn’t open, so the New York City Fire Department was called. Firefighters opened the doors and pulled everyone out of the elevator.
Our client was seen on a video camera in the hallway in front of the elevator, walking around, taking pictures, and flirting with the firefighters.
We were still able to settle her case for a lot of money.
Can Insurance Companies Find Out Where You Live?
Yes, of course. That’s easy for almost anyone, but insurance companies have access to investigative tools that will show every address you have ever resided at and much more. We have the same investigative tools.
Insurance Company Surveillance Tactics
Usually, investigators just do video surveillance, but investigators have been known to do some tricky things, underhanded things, and sometimes illegal things to get a video of you.
It was reported on the news that in a case where an employee was on disability complaining of severe back pain and unable to bend down, an investigator placed a few coins on the ground near the driver’s car door after the driver parked to go into a store. When the driver returned, he was seen on video bending over to pick up the money.
In another case, while a disability claimant was in the courthouse, an investigator let the air out of his rear tire. Apparently, the claimant offered to drive his lawyer back, but when they got to the car, he found a flat tire. No problem, he changed the tire. He was photographed with his lawyer standing behind him, watching. The photo was on the front page of the newspapers, and the lawyer was in trouble.
In this case, an insurance defense law firm, Baker Donelson, and American Family Insurance were sued for $13.2 Billion Dollars for allegedly conspiring to spy on an injured car accident victim with electronic devices that were illegally placed on private property.
According to the ABA Law Journal, an investigator from Martinelli Investigations testified at a deposition that they entered the plaintiff’s property to “attach GPS devices to her vehicles and to mount trail cameras on her property.”
Do Insurance Companies Use Drones to Spy
A drone could be useful, in some circumstances, to a private investigator doing surveillance on an insurance claim, but we have never seen a drone used for video surveillance in a personal injury case.
Videos and Photos Obtained From Facebook and Social Media
Insurance companies also pay investigation companies to watch what is being posted on social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, and others. That’s why some personal injury lawyers want their clients to close their social media accounts.
Anything that you post online can be used against you. Photographs and videos can be used to unfairly make it look like you could do things that you said at your deposition you could not do.
What Should I Do If I See an Insurance Investigator Following Me?
If you see an insurance investigator following you or parked outside your house, just call 911 and report a suspicious car or person.
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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is one of the HURT911® Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York; He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
Robert Plevy, Esq. is one of the HURT911® Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Rob began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.