Insurance companies often use several tactics to devalue or deny claims. One of these tactics may be to hire a private investigator to conduct surveillance of a car accident victim. An insurer will try to use any information the investigator uncovers against you. They are looking to protect their best interests and not yours.
Our auto accident attorneys in Green Bay discuss whether insurance companies can legally spy on you, limits on what a private investigator can do, as well as what you can do to protect yourself.
If you think your rights have been violated, we recommend contacting our firm to discuss your legal options. Schedule a free initial consultation today to get started. There is no risk or obligation involved.
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Can Insurance Companies Legally Spy on You?
Insurance companies do not always engage in surveillance. This is because hiring a private investigator to spy on you after an accident can be quite costly. However, it is not illegal as long as the investigator follows certain guidelines. A private investigator has the right to follow you at a distance in public places, take pictures of you in public areas, look at your social media profiles and examine your public records.
Insurance companies may say they hire private investigators to prevent fraudulent claims and protect their bottom line. Although fraud can and does happen, insurers also use surveillance to try and find a way to avoid paying out on legitimate claims. A private investigator is capable of uncovering a lot of information about you and using this information to discredit your injuries and how they affect your life.
When Would an Insurer Hire a Private Investigator?
Not all claims warrant hiring a private investigator. An insurer will likely not engage in surveillance right after you file a claim since they do not have enough information about the accident and the extent of your injuries to justify it. Insurance companies generally decide to hire private investigators to follow accident victims once a lawsuit has been filed, ideally before a deposition or before going to court.
Other times, insurers may hire private investigators because the case is more complex or has the potential to cost the insurer more money than they are willing to pay. For instance, say you suffered a serious, permanent injury and cannot work. You may be eligible for pain and suffering damages in addition to medical expenses and lost wages.
The insurance company may want help looking through your medical or financial background to find any reason to devalue your claim. They may also feel there is probable cause for surveillance to:
- Gather more information about you and the nature of your injuries
- Damage your credibility by showing you doing activities you say you are too injured to do
- Look for any sign that you are exaggerating your injuries or are injured at all
Once an insurance company has finished its investigation, they will do anything to devalue or deny your claim if the private investigator was able to gather sufficient evidence to use against you.
Are There Limits to What Private Investigators Can Do?
Although insurance companies can legally spy on you, there are limits to what private investigators can do. They can follow accident victims anywhere in public but are prohibited from:
- Taking pictures or video through the windows of your home
- Wiretapping your cellphone or home phone
- Installing a tracking device on your vehicle
- Trespassing on private property
- Impersonating a police officer or insurance agent
- Gaining unauthorized access to your email, computer or other data
A private investigator is also not allowed to intimidate, harass or otherwise make verbal or physical threats. If you feel you are in any danger, be sure to contact the local police. With the help of the police, you may be able to report the individual and put an end to any illegal surveillance on you.
A lawyer could also help you take legal action if the private investigator violated the law. He or she can protect your best interests and reach out to the insurance company or local police on your behalf.
Should I Be Concerned If I Am Under Surveillance?
Private investigators are trained to do their jobs without being seen. However, if you suspect that you are being followed, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself and your potential case. This includes avoiding doing physically demanding activities (i.e. running, swimming or cycling) out in public.
A private investigator will be looking to see if your actions support what you are saying in your claim. For instance, say you suffered a lower back injury that makes it difficult to bend down and lift heavy items. While under surveillance, a private investigator may watch you running errands or at your place of work to see if you are bending your knees and lifting things normally without restraint.
Doing any type of physical activity too soon before being medically cleared by your doctor may make your injuries get worse. The insurance company may assume that you are not as seriously injured as you claim.
It is also important to avoid posting on your social media platforms. A photo or video showing you out with friends, on a trip or even smiling could be taken out of context and used against you by an insurer. Even discussing the accident and your claim could be fuel to challenge the severity of your injuries.
If you attend all of your doctor’s visits and follow his or her recommended treatment plan, a private investigator is less likely to uncover information that could be used to downplay your injuries.
Learn More About Your Rights in a Free Case Review
At Sigman Janssen, we have years of experience dealing with insurance companies and know how they think. Our attorneys are ready to fight for your rights after an accident and pursue fair and just compensation. We have successfully recovered millions in compensation for our clients.
An initial consultation is completely free with no obligation involved. We do not get paid unless you do.
Have Questions? Call (920) 245-3400.