Christmas Tree Throwing: What Not to Do During Your Personal Injury Case

The story of a woman winning the annual Christmas tree-throwing competition in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, has gone viral. But it’s not her status of being the champion for throwing a 5-foot Christmas tree further than anyone else in the competition that is causing her story to spread like wildfire – it’s the dismissal of her pending $823,000 car accident claim based on a photo taken of her “throwing form” (published in the local newspaper along with her name). As an experienced Virginia Beach personal injury attorney with over three decades of experience, this case is a good reminder of what not to do if you are involved in a personal injury case. What tips can we give any person with a valid personal injury claim pending? Read to the end for that advice.


In 2017, Kamila Grabska, 36, claimed that a car accident left her with such debilitating pain that she had many days she couldn’t get out of bed. She said that constant pain in her back, neck, and spine left her unable to play with her two children, do chores, or lift groceries. For the past five years, she has been unable to work, and between medical expenses and lost income, her car accident claim was now totaling $823,000. However, the judge presiding over her case dismissed her claim last week after the insurance company introduced video and photographic evidence that belied Grabska’s claims.

The photograph showing Grabska throwing the tree in the 2018 competition was shown to the judge. This photo had been published in the local paper after the event and just days after she had allegedly told her doctors about the constant pains in her spine, back, and neck.

The insurance company also introduced video footage from November 2023 that showed Grabska playing in the park with a dog for about 90 minutes.

After seeing the evidence, the judge said, “It is a very large, natural Christmas tree, and it is being thrown by her in a very agile movement. I’m afraid I cannot but conclude the claims were entirely exaggerated.”

Follow Your Attorney’s Advice

The first bit of advice we provide our personal injury clients is to not do physical things inconsistent with your current treating doctor’s recommendations. We also tell our clients that if they want to do a physical activity that seems to be pushing the envelope, they run that activity by their physician to get the physician’s opinion and blessing if they think it can be done. It could be riding a bike, it could be some type of light sports activity, but you don’t want to attempt activities that are not totally consistent with what your own doctor is recommending. And then also your doctor might just put in your medical chart that she has approved that activity. We also tell our clients don’t try stupid things and don’t think that you can outfox the insurance company or a private investigator, it’s not worth it.

This article is not intended to convey to you that insurance companies hire private investigators on routine car accident cases, they simply don’t want to spend the money. But if the case is worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s a different story, and sometimes they will hire investigators.

If you’re involved in a personal injury case and are concerned about whether the insurance company is watching you, there are several signs and precautions you can take to determine if surveillance is being conducted:

Heightened Awareness

surveillanceBe mindful of any unusual or suspicious behavior around you, such as unfamiliar individuals loitering near your home, workplace, or places you frequent. While not definitive evidence of surveillance, it’s essential to trust your instincts and remain vigilant. Is there an SUV or van parked on your street several times that you don’t recognize and does it have tinted windows?

Pay attention to vehicles or individuals that appear to be following or observing you. Take note of any recurring patterns or suspicious behavior, such as parked cars with tinted windows or individuals taking photos or videos in public places.

It’s a very common private investigator tactic to try to find out when physical therapy appointments or doctor appointments are scheduled and then to take up surveillance to follow a personal injury victim to and from appointments.

We have even had cases where private investigators let the air out of our client’s tires when they are shopping or at a physical therapy appointment. Then the private investigator gets their video camera ready hoping that our client will change their own tire, yes we have warned our clients about these tactics.

Social Media Activity

Insurance companies often monitor social media platforms to gather information about claimants. Avoid posting content that could potentially undermine your claim, such as photos or status updates depicting physical activities inconsistent with your reported injuries. Every claims adjuster is now trained to at least check public Facebook or Instagram posts of a personal injury victim. We recommend that our clients move their social media to the highest and most secure private status and not post everything to the general public.

Document Your Activities

Keep detailed records of your daily activities, including appointments, errands, and interactions with others. If needed, this documentation can serve as evidence of your movements and behaviors to refute any inaccurate or misleading surveillance footage.

Be Honest and Transparent

Maintain honesty and consistency in your communications with medical providers and your attorney. Providing accurate information about your injuries, limitations, and activities can help establish credibility and mitigate suspicions of fraud or deception. Making sure that you are doing things consistent with your current treating physician’s recommendations is obviously of paramount importance.

Unsolicited Contact

Exercise caution if you receive unexpected phone calls, emails, or messages from individuals claiming to represent the insurance company or helping with your claim. Legitimate insurers typically communicate through formal channels and respect boundaries. Let your personal injury lawyer handle all communication with the insurance company on your behalf.

Call a Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Case Evaluation

If you’ve been injured in an accident, it is critical to have a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney advocating on your behalf and protecting your interests, allowing you to focus on your recovery.

Your personal injury attorney can provide guidance and insight into whether surveillance is likely in your case based on their experience and knowledge of the insurance industry. They may also have strategies for detecting and addressing surveillance activities. If you suspect you’re being surveilled, discuss your concerns with your attorney, who can advise you on the appropriate steps to take.

Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free consultation and find out what legal options you may have for your situation. Our legal team will diligently work to get you the financial compensation you deserve, like the $442,000 jury verdict we obtained for one client who suffered serious injuries when her leg suddenly fell five feet into a small sinkhole while playing golf at a Williamsburg, VA country club.