Use of Video Surveillance by Insurers

Author: John Brennan

Video surveillance has become a common practice of insurance companies in their defence of personal injury claims. Recently, CBC’s Go Public featured an article on undercover video surveillance used by insurers across the country, in personal injury and workplace injury claims (which you can read here, if interested).
In our experience representing personal injury and medical malpractice claimants across Prince Edward Island, we have noticed mixed results from the use of video surveillance of our clients. A frequent issue is that the private investigators use a combination of outdated camera equipment and/or poor angles. We have also noticed factual errors throughout the years, which includes but is not limited to filming the wrong person. However, we usually get videos that simply show a client behaving in the exact manner they described, or otherwise being ordinary.
One of the most important aspects of personal injuries is that injuries—and importantly pain—are not always visible to the naked eye (or the camera lens). We often go to the grocery store and see, unbeknownst to us, someone who might be living with a cancer diagnosis or other tragic illness. Perhaps an individual has a migraine but has a therapy appointment. It could be the demands of parenthood that requires people to forge ahead in the face of injury and pain.
Let’s use the CBC article linked above, for example, where investigators filmed a woman who suffered a concussion, and used footage of her grocery shopping and going to appointments as evidence that she was not injured or otherwise facing daily challenges of life. This obviously defies common sense, as a concussion is not like a sprained ankle in that, for the most part, concussion symptoms are not apparent by looking at someone. That is the very nature of why concussions have plagued professional sports franchises and has been the focus of various educational movements over the last decade.
But simply because the woman in the CBC article either felt like she had to, or wanted to, maintain some semblance of her former life, does not otherwise lessen the injury or pain that she is living and dealing with. What we find, more often than not in our practice, is that many of our clients resent the fact that their lives have been changed so abruptly, typically through no fault of their own. So, in the face of the injuries they have and the pain they feel, they try to do as many things as they could pre-accident to get back the life that they lost; painful as it may be.
In theory, video surveillance’s purpose is to catch someone who has clearly been functioning in a manner contrary to their described current status. The purpose of which, of course, is to catch those individuals who are fraudulently faking injuries or embellishing the extent of their injuries. However, as indicated by the CBC article above, this rarely happens as the actual instances of fraud are extremely low.
Ultimately, the video surveillance does not usually show much at all. However, it is important for personal injury claimants to understand it is likely that insurers will deploy this inherently invasive mechanism on them at some point.
We would remind everyone, whether our client or not, if you are involved in a personal injury accident such as a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall or trip and fall, Workers Compensation, or a direct action against an insurer for disability benefits, it is best to assume that, at some point, you will be subjected to video surveillance.
If anyone wishes to talk about this topic, or have any questions, please feel free to contact John Brennan directly or send our firm a message or request a complementary personal injury consultation via our contact us form.