What does “Surveillance” Have To Do With the Boy Scouts?
“I always feel like somebody’s watching me.”
Remember that song from the 80’s one hit wonder Rockwell? It’s one that many claimants in personal injury claims feel like singing.
Secretly Watching You
In many serious injury cases the insurance company that represents the defendant will hire a private investigator to follow you and secretly video you going about your normal daily activities.
Why Do They Do This?
There are two reasons why insurance companies do this:
1. To see if your injuries are genuine. Do you walk with a limp? Do you need to use a cane? Do you have difficulty bending over or kneeling down? Problems lifting your groceries out of your trunk? In other words, is it obvious to anyone looking at you that you have suffered a serious injury?
2. Ammunition: To try to get information that can be used to defend or minimize your claim. Say for example the private investigator gets videotape of you taking your garbage to the curb in the morning. Perhaps they videotape you mowing your law or trying to shovel your sidewalk. Maybe looking at the video you don’t appear to be hurting all that much.
The Problem With Surveillance
What videotape doesn’t show is what happens behind closed doors: the hours that you spend laying down because the physical activity has aggravated your injuries.
How Surveillance Can Be Used Against You
Surveillance can be very damaging to the plaintiff who hasn’t been properly prepared for discoveries. The insurance company’s lawyer may ask: “So tell me what kind of things your injuries prevent you from doing? Are you able to take out the garbage?”
An unprepared plaintiff might say “No, I can’t take out the garbage.”
Now what she really means is “…taking out the garbage aggravates my pain, sometimes I have to take medication and lay on the couch for hours waiting for the pain to subside. So I try to avoid taking out the garbage whenever I can.”
Unfortunately, it takes too long to say all that so the unprepared plaintiff just says: “No, I can’t take out the garbage”. Then the insurance company’s lawyer plays the video of you taking out the garbage and all of a sudden you look like a liar.
Surveillance More Common
When I first started practicing as a lawyer I used to do insurance defence work. Surveillance video was rarely used back then. But now I see surveillance video used routinely in almost every serious injury claim.
Boy Scout Motto
That’s why I tell all of my clients that they should act like boy scouts and be prepared.
Be prepared for the fact that the insurance company may have you under surveillance.
Be prepared to give your evidence at discovery.
Be prepared for your testimony at trial.
That’s why I have prepared a report that I give to all of my clients well in advance of the discovery telling them what they need to do to prepare to give their evidence.
You can get a free copy of the report “10 Tips to Prepare for your Discovery Examination” by contacting my through this blog.