When someone gets hurt in an accident and another party is at fault, they are entitled to compensation. And in most cases, recovering compensation will involve dealing with the responsible party’s insurer. An injured individual can handle the claim directly with the insurance company, or they can hire an attorney to handle their case.
As part of the claims process, the insurance company will investigate the accident to find out all of the facts. In some cases, this might involve hiring a private investigator to observe the claimant’s day-to-day activities. Insurance companies do this in order to verify that the claimant is telling the truth about the extent of their injuries.
It sounds creepy that an insurance company could follow you around after an accident, but this is not illegal as long as they do not violate your privacy. That said, it is also important to remember that the primary goal of the insurance company is to minimize the value of your claim, so they can pay out as little as possible. With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that the investigator is looking for reasons to cast doubt on the legitimacy of your claim.
What insurance company private investigators can and cannot do
In general, private investigators are allowed to gather information that is within the public sphere. For example, an investigator could legally follow you while you are going to and from doctor’s appointments, running errands, going out to dinner or going for a walk in a park. These are all areas that are in the general public, and it is not uncommon for an investigator to perform video surveillance of a claimant participating in these types of activities.
It is important to note that your online activities can also be legally uncovered by insurance investigators. What you do on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and similar platforms could be found by an investigator and used against you.
For example, if you post pictures of you and your family having a good time vacationing at Disneyworld, these photos could be used to argue that the injury didn’t really cause as much emotional distress as you claim it did.
As we talked about earlier, insurance company investigators are not allowed to do anything that violates your privacy. For example, they are generally not allowed to enter private property without permission from the owner, and they are not allowed to perform illegal activities like hacking into your cell phone or other electronic devices.
Private investigators also need to be careful not to follow a claimant too closely. Even if done in public, there is a fine line between performing legal surveillance and stalking. If you believe you are being followed or stalked, you have every right to contact the police to confront that person. After all, you never know if they are from the insurance company or they are someone who intends to do you harm.
How to deal with insurance company surveillance during an injury claim
The fact that the insurance company might be watching you after you file an injury claim should not be something to get overly concerned about. As long as you are honest with them and you are not exaggerating your injuries, then you have little reason to worry. That said, the insurance company might use the information gathered by their investigators unfairly and take things out of context to try to damage your claim.
Here are some ways to prevent this from happening:
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations: Refrain from any physical activities that your doctor has told you not to participate in and wait until you have medical clearance to resume them.
- Be mindful of all public activities: Before you go out in public, think about how your activity might be interpreted by an insurance investigator. For example, you might feel like it is okay to lift a few heavy grocery bags, but if your doctor has told you not to, then it is better to have someone else get the groceries for you or have them delivered to your home.
- Stay off of social media: Comments and photos that you post on social media can be used to undermine your claim. The best advice is to stay away from social media until your claim is resolved. But if you must log on, only do so to read other people’s posts.
- Retain experienced legal representation: In addition to surveillance, there are a number of other tactics that insurance companies might use to diminish the value of an injury claim. To ensure that your rights are fully protected, it is highly recommended that you work with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
For accident injury claims in West Virginia, contact The Masters Law Firm, L.C. for a free consultation and case assessment. We will meet with you to review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options. And if we do end up taking your case, we will not charge you any attorney fees unless we recover compensation on your behalf.