The Role of Surveillance in Personal Injury Cases
An incredible number of personal injury cases go to trial each year, and now the onset of advanced video technology and social media has added another layer of complexity to those proceedings. Personal injury is a unique category of law because the plaintiff claims that he has suffered extensive physical or mental injury due to the defendant’s negligence. This has led to a surprising yet common trend: the defendant and his insurance company will frequently follow and videotape the plaintiff. Victims of negligence are always shocked to find that it is legal for the defendant to do this, so it’s important to understand what it all means.
Since personal injury lawsuits are usually settled for large sums of money—often reaching into the millions—an insurance company will vigorously defend its client, the defendant, in an effort to avoid paying out that money. Technology now makes it possible to use surveillance as the most direct form of checking the credibility of the plaintiff’s claim. For example, if a plaintiff sues a company in a slip and fall case by claiming she is paralyzed from a fall in the company’s parking lot, yet the insurance company obtains surveillance of the defendant walking in and out of her house, then the lawsuit is clearly fraudulent and has no merit. In such a case, the insurance company can happily save a few million dollars.
Even completely innocent plaintiffs who have legitimate cases can feel uncomfortable with this surveillance, so fortunately there are limits. An insurance company is never permitted to tap a phone or take a video of someone through a window of that person’s home. If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, the first and most important thing to do is tell the truth, the whole truth. This will ensure that any surveillance obtained through the defendant’s insurance company simply supports your claims and cannot be used against you. If you ever feel that the surveillance has crossed the line into harassment, contact your attorney immediately.