Will the Insurance Company Put Me Under Surveillance?
The short answer is maybe because the decision of whether to use surveillance depends on multiple factors. Before discussing those factors, here are some basics:
- Surveillance of personal injury claimants is legal
- Investigators who are licensed by the state are held to a code of conduct and ethical considerations which should prevent them from creating situations or opportunities like flattening your tires to film you changing a tire.
- Surveillance cannot include audio because Florida law requires two-party consent to make communication recordings
- Investigators cannot commit crimes to obtain surveillance for a personal injury case. So it remains illegal for the investigator to break into your home to film you or any other form of invasion of your privacy.
So what does an insurance company consider before ordering surveillance? It could be as simple as cost. Private investigators and investigative firms compete for business. That competition will often result in reduced costs for surveillance in exchange for a volume of business. Theoretically an investigator could approach an insurance company and offer to do surveillance at half the cost of its competitor so long as the insurance company guarantees a certain number of cases.
Such a proposal can be attractive to an insurance company. They are able to reduce average costs per file while adding the potential of obtaining valuable surveillance that may ultimately reduce the settlement value of the personal injury claim presented. The investigator will get a volume of business and income even if it comes at the expense of their own industry.
Other times, the use of surveillance depends on new management at the insurance companies which by their very nature are corporate bureaucracies. As such, there are cycles of management and every new manager has new ideas to improve the bottom line. One manager might take the position to eliminate all surveillance to reduce costs. The next manager comes in and advocates the use of surveillance to reduce the average claim payment. So ultimately, the use of surveillance on your case might have absolutely nothing to do with you personally.
Once a lawsuit is filed, the dynamic might change and it might actually depend on you. For instance, if you testify in deposition that you are unable to do anything physical then that will make it very tempting to an insurance defense attorney and claim representative to want to place you under surveillance.
If you are in litigation, when will you most likely be placed under surveillance? The answer is pretty simple and it comes down to what the defense knows. They will know where you live and where you work. But a lot of surveillance starts with litigation events such as your deposition, your compulsory medical examination or your mediation. On those occasions, it is easy to set up surveillance because you are supposed to be at a designated time and place.
So what should you do if you believe you are being surveilled? First call the police. A professional investigator will give a head’s up to the local law enforcement that they are conducting surveillance. If they haven’t ask for the police to check the person you believe to be watching you. If it isn’t an investigator, then it makes even more sense to call the police. Always better safe than sorry.
If you see an investigator who is conducting surveillance, our Miami personal injury lawyers will often advise our clients to get identifying information such as license plates and physical description. On occasion, we have also told clients to take photos of the investigator. As a practical matter that will usually lead to a termination of the surveillance assignment.
In any case of possible surveillance, your safety is first and foremost. You should always contact law enforcement first then call your personal injury attorney and follow his or her advice.