The Evolution of Surveillance in Personal Injury Lawsuits

January 25, 2024

By: Chris Beckett

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Insurance companies have always used surveillance as a tool/weapon in their defense of personal injury lawsuits brought against them.

Historically, surveillance was of relatively limited value due to the means available and the costs of those means.

Surveillance used to be done by hiring a “private investigator” to follow an injured person to attempt to obtain photographs or video of them doing things that are inconsistent with the injury or disability which is being claimed.

A private investigator would typically stake out an injured person’s home and follow them when they leave and attempt to photograph or videotape them when they are out in public, usually doing various errands such as shopping. The results were typically of limited value due to the random nature of when surveillance was attempted (ie. the investigator must be following them on days when the injured person does something that is inconsistent with their alleged injury and disability) and the relatively high cost of having an investigator waiting for an injured person to leave their home and doing something in public that can be photographed/recorded (ie. investigators were paid an hourly rate regardless of results).

With the advent of the internet and the widespread use of various social media platforms by the majority of the population, surveillance has evolved and become more effective.

Insurance companies now surveil claimants by monitoring their social media platforms.

These platforms provide them with a significant amount of personal information including written commentary about various aspects of their lives, photographs as well as videos.

And these platforms allow insurance companies to essentially monitor an injured person’s life continuously rather than at random intervals like with traditional surveillance. Furthermore, the cost of doing so is a small fraction of the cost of traditional surveillance; meaning it is being used with greater frequency.

And the added bonus to the insurance companies is that almost all of the information collected from people’s social media platforms is useful to the defense of their claims due to the fact that the vast majority of people only post things that paint them in a positive light which the insurance company can take, usually out of context, and use against them.

Efforts to stop insurance companies from benefiting from these tactics on the basis that it is a clear breach of privacy have largely failed.

There are, however, steps that an injured person who is involved in a lawsuit can and should take to protect themselves and an experienced personal injury lawyer can help them do so - which reduces the risk of an insurance company getting information from social media platforms and using it against plaintiffs in Court.

If you have a personal injury claim and are worried about an insurance company gaining access to your social media platforms and would like to discuss ways in which you can reduce or even eliminate that possibility, feel free to reach out to one of the personal injury lawyers at Beckett for a free consultation

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