Many insurance companies use computer fraud detection programs that red flag claims based on certain statistical indicators of fraud, such as whether there is a police report or whether it happened at night. The flagged cases are then reviewed by an insurance company’s SIU, or a special investigations unit.
The SIU unit has a variety of ways to investigate claims. The insurance company may hire a private investigator to go out and videotape a claimant, speak to neighbors and friends, or search the claimant’s social media accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, in an attempt to obtain evidence against the claimant in order to minimize the settlement, or reduce the personal injury claim award for damages.
With such different practices employed by private investigators, personal injury claimants must be on alert when conducting themselves in public and sharing information on social media accounts. Even the most innocent public activities can be misconstrued and represented in a false light against the plaintiff during a personal injury trial. Furthermore, at all times a claimant should not perform activities inconsistent with his or her complaints to the treating physician and must comply with the physical limitations approved by the doctor.
Video surveillance is typically done in litigation cases, i.e., one a lawsuit is filed. In most cases, a claimant is not aware that he or she is being watched and videotaped. We have seen video surveillance done while our clients were shopping at Wal-mart and other stores, loading and unloading their groceries, washing or repairing their cars in their driveway, mowing the lawn, taking their garbage out, filling gas, arriving and leaving deposition, running a marathon, and even smoking marijuana in their fenced yard.
Very frequently the surveillance is done on several days, sometimes months to years apart, especially when the prior surveillance did not produce compelling evidence of malingering on the part of claimant.
There is no doubt that a claimant’s credibility can be affected if the insurance company presents a video surveillance of the claimant walking without a cane when the claimant had testified under oath that he or she cannot walk without a cane, or when a video surveillance shows a claimant moving a lawn when the claimant testified he had not been able to do that any more following the accident. Not only such compelling evidence can result in a zero jury verdict or a verdict for a substantially less than the actual damages, such evidence has frequently been the subject of the motion to dismiss the case for fraud.
At Anna Handy Law Firm, P.A. we constantly stress to our clients the importance of maintaining complete privacy during their claim. However, even complete privacy cannot always shield a claimant from improper inferences and representations. We adequately prepare our clients to give sworn testimony that is not inconsistent with their activities. We also can employ different strategies to minimize the impact of perceived malingering. If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, please give us a call for a free non-obligation consultation. (386) 248-3000.