Apr 21, 2023 Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Vehicle Wrecks
- 1. Can Insurers Really Hire Private Investigators to Spy on Auto Accident Victims?
- 2. What Tactics Can Private Investigators Use During Their Claim Investigation?
- 3. What Should I Do if I Suspect a Private Investigator Is Watching Me?
- 4. A Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Minimize the Impact of Surveillance
- 5. Crosley Law: We Stand Up for San Antonio Accident Victims
After a car wreck, you may feel like your every move is being scrutinized. Unfortunately, it may not be just your imagination.
If you notice an unfamiliar car parked in front of your home, school, or workplace; or if you receive a strange friend request on social media, a private investigator might be tracking your activities—not just online, but in person, too. Car insurance companies often use investigators to damage crash victims’ credibility.
While this can feel deeply unsettling, it’s important to keep a clear head if you discover you’re being watched. The good news is that you can protect yourself from intrusive surveillance efforts by following a few simple tips from Crosley Law. But first, let’s take a closer look at why insurance companies hire private investigators, and what they can do.
Can Insurers Really Hire Private Investigators to Spy on Auto Accident Victims?
The short answer is yes, they can, and they frequently do. There is nothing illegal about hiring private investigators, as long as the investigators themselves follow the law while conducting surveillance.
Why Do Insurance Companies Hire Private Investigators?
Apart from the evidence, the single most important thing you have when pursuing a car accident claim is your credibility.
Insurance companies are skeptical of almost every injury claim and are always looking for reasons to deny them. If they suspect you’re not being completely honest with them, the adjuster may hire a private investigator to track your activities. The investigator’s sole goal is getting statements, footage, or other evidence that suggests you’re not as disabled as you claim.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to cherry pick images and video that suggest you’re much healthier than you really are. While the investigator may get video of you lifting what seems to be a heavy bag of groceries or doing chores, they won’t document how you had to rest for hours after the activity.
How Often Do Insurance Companies Use Private Investigators?
It’s hard to say exactly how often insurance companies hire private investigators. While they certainly don’t hire them for every personal injury claim, it is a common tactic.
The insurance company will consider several factors when deciding whether hiring a private investigator is worth it. These include:
- The complexity of your case
- The severity of your injuries
- How much you’re claiming in damages (in other words, how much they stand to lose if your claim is successful)
- Whether they’ve already noted any “red flags” that would make them question your credibility
- The insurance company’s budget for claim investigations
However, even if your case is a small one and you haven’t noticed anything suspicious, that doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t under surveillance. Until your auto accident case has been settled, it’s wise to assume that nothing you do in public or post online is truly private.
What Tactics Can Private Investigators Use During Their Claim Investigation?
Private investigators have many options when they’re surveilling an accident victim. Tactics they might use include:
- Fixed surveillance: Sometimes called a “stakeout,” the investigator monitors your activities from one location, such as a parked car or a park bench.
- Stationary technical surveillance: A form of fixed surveillance that uses one or more unmanned devices, such as cameras, to record your activities from a set location.
- Electronic surveillance: Investigators monitor your online presence looking for damaging social media posts, photos, comments, and other information. They’ll also likely gain access to any public records that might be relevant, such as criminal records, property records, etc.
- Tracking: An investigator follows you throughout your day, monitoring your activities and routine.
- Covert recorded conversation: A private investigator may try to interview you, or other people who know you. Because Texas is a one-party consent state, the investigator may surreptitiously record these conversations without the other party’s knowledge or consent.
While insurance company surveillance might seem like a violation of your privacy, much of it is legal in Texas.
Still, there are several rules the investigator must follow. While they can watch your house from the road, they cannot trespass on your private property, or film you in areas where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as a bathroom or bedroom). They also cannot threaten you.
Most importantly, remember that a private investigator is not a police officer. While they might be resourceful, they have no more rights, power, or authority than any private citizen.
What Should I Do if I Suspect a Private Investigator Is Watching Me?
Remember, insurance companies don’t use surveillance in every injury claim. You don’t need to hide inside your home with your blinds permanently shut just because you were involved in a car crash. However, you should follow some basic rules to protect yourself.
1. Don’t Embellish Your Story
When you fill out a form or speak with a doctor, it’s always in your best interest to give them honest and accurate information. You shouldn’t overstate your symptoms, speculate about your injuries, or change your story. Instead, stick to the facts that you know are true and be helpful, without oversharing.
If there are inconsistencies in your statements, the insurance company will try to use them against you. You’ll also face a higher chance of surveillance if the insurance adjuster questions your honesty. Again, your credibility is one of your most important assets in an auto accident case—and once you lose it, it’s very hard to get it back.
Fight These Four Common Insurance Company Tricks After a Car AccidentRead More
Always Follow Your Doctors’ Restrictions
Life doesn’t stop when you’re injured. You still have a family to care for and a home to maintain. On a good day, it can be tempting to push yourself to get caught up on all your chores and errands—especially if it seems like your symptoms are genuinely improving ahead of schedule and you feel like you’re capable of doing more.
Unfortunately, insurance companies will sometimes use footage of your “good” days or moments to damage your credibility. This tactic can be extremely effective in court, even though it might paint a very inaccurate and incomplete picture.
Even on your best day, you should always follow your doctors’ restrictions to the best of your abilities. Ignoring your doctors’ advice can have additional consequences beyond inviting unfair surveillance. If you push yourself too much, you might also reaggravate your injuries.
Limit Your Social Media Activity and Set Your Accounts to Private
Insurance companies love electronic surveillance. It’s relatively inexpensive and can be remarkably effective. People tend to portray themselves on social media as more active, happier, and healthier than they really are—and that is exactly what you don’t want if you’re pursuing a personal injury claim.
While you don’t have to wipe your social media accounts entirely, you should set them to private. This is not a foolproof solution, however—private investigators often find ways to see posts that are supposed to be private, and if they do, the evidence can be used in court.
That’s why you should always assume your posts are public, regardless of your privacy settings, and never post anything about your accident or your legal case. In fact, the safest option is to simply not post anything on social media until your case is resolved.
You should also monitor your friends’ posts and ask them not to share photos or posts about you, your health, or your activities. While they’re trying to be supportive, posts that minimize your symptoms or contradict stated facts—even inadvertently—could be used against you.
Lastly, never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know. It may well be a private investigator.
How Social Media Can Harm Your Personal Injury CaseRead More
Know Your Privacy Rights
While a private investigator typically can monitor you without your consent, there are limitations on their powers. Private investigators cannot:
- Record you in private areas of your home, such as your bedroom, living room, or bathroom, without your permission
- Hack into your accounts or tap your phones
- Open your mail
- Enter your property without your consent
- Harass or threaten you
If you see someone trespassing on your property, you should immediately tell them to leave.
If an investigator refuses to leave your property, tampers with your mail, places a GPS tracker on your vehicle without consent, threatens you, or makes you feel unsafe, you should call the police. You should also contact law enforcement and your Crosley Law attorney if you suspect someone hacked into your accounts or used deceitful tactics to obtain information.
A Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Minimize the Impact of Surveillance
At Crosley Law, we understand that a single image or brief video can never tell an accident victim’s full story. If a private investigator records you walking your dog, taking your child to the park, or lifting grocery bags, don’t panic. Instead, consult with one of our experienced San Antonio injury lawyers. Our attorneys can educate you about your legal options and help you build a strategy that minimizes the impact of the investigator’s report.
And we can do a lot more than simply coach you about what to do (and not to do) when you’re under surveillance. We also use cutting-edge techniques and expert witnesses to support our clients’ claims.
In any personal injury lawsuit, you can expect that the defense will hire its own experts—often including a private investigator—to bolster their credibility. To beat this tactic, you usually need your own team of experts, with the knowledge and experience to counter unfair and mistaken facts and conclusions. Crosley Law works closely with physicians, life care planners, economists, engineers, rehabilitation therapists, and many other experts who can prove that your serious injuries are legitimate, and the monetary compensation you’re demanding is reasonable.
Often, we can reduce the impact of surveillance footage with expert testimony and aggressive advocacy. We may even be able to prove that the investigator crossed legal or ethical lines, or that their report is inaccurate or unfair.
A Quick Case Study: Turning the Tables on an Aggressive Private Investigator
We’ve helped hundreds of car accident claimants over the years, so we’re used to dealing with private investigators and their tactics. While experienced investigators are usually good about not crossing legal boundaries, we’ve also caught them engaging in harassment and intimidation, and turned those abuses into advantages for our clients.
Once, we represented a 71-year-old woman who was injured in a head-on collision. During the claim, she started noticing a car parked outside her house and felt as if someone was following her.
One morning, our client discovered that someone had taken the air out of one of her tires and she had to call her adult son to help with the repair. She thought that she had a stalker.
In fact, the insurance company hired an investigator to trail her and take surveillance video. They had removed air from her tire in hopes that she would incriminate herself by putting on the spare.
At trial, Crosley Law’s lawyers emphasized how intimidated and frightened our elderly client felt. We had the jury watch the video. In the end, the jurors were so angry at the insurance company’s behavior that they awarded our client a larger verdict than expected.
Crosley Law: We Stand Up for San Antonio Accident Victims
Crosley Law is one of the most respected personal injury law firms in San Antonio. We use sophisticated techniques to investigate our clients’ claims and demand fair compensation for their injuries.
Don’t let a nosy private investigator unfairly damage your reputation and credibility with an insurance company or jury. To request a free consultation with an experienced attorney, please complete this brief online form or call 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000. Our staff is eager to get to work for you.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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