Surveillance in the Context of Personal Injury Claims | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

The insurance company may put you under surveillance after you file a personal injury claim. In most cases, this will involve a company employee or private investigator filming outside your house or near your place of work. Such surveillance is legal as long as it is done while the person being surveilled is in a public area.

Camera and audio recording technology has advanced to the point that surveillance can happen practically anywhere and at any distance. Even camera drones have been used by insurance companies. For this reason, no one who has filed a personal injury claim following a car or truck crash, slip and fall, incidence of medical malpractice, or use of a dangerous or defective product should assume they are not being watched and recorded some of the time.

Insurance companies conduct surveillance in order to collect evidence they can use to support decisions to deny claims or offer low settlement amounts. For instance, an insurance claims adjuster might refer to a video of the injury victim playing with their children or gardening as “proof” that injuries were not serious or never occurred at all.

If you suspect you are being watched and recorded by someone who was hired by the insurance company, try to identify the people conducting the surveillance. Do this nonconfrontationally. Take pictures unobtrusively and write down license plate numbers; do not approach or threaten the people you think are staking you out.

Share the videos, pictures and other information with your personal injury attorney. The lawyer can then take more formal steps to confirm whether surveillance is being conducted and to determine who is paying for it.

Once a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the injury victim and their lawyer can request copies of surveillance footage compiled by the insurance company. The judge overseeing the case will decide exactly how much material the insurance company must hand over, but some of the footage should be made available for review. At a minimum, the personal injury lawyer and their client will have access to videos the insurance company plans to introduce as evidence during trial.

Viewing surveillance footage during the pretrial discovery period allows the plaintiff and their lawyer to ensure everything the insurance company wants to argue is true. Questions to ask while reviewing videos range from whether the injury victim is actually the person being shown in the recording to whether edits have been made to give a misleading account of what actually happened.