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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
Ever feel like you are being watched? It should come as no surprise that surveillance of claimants making personal injury claims is very prevalent. Insurance fraud is clearly a problem and cannot be condoned.
An industry has emerged to detect insurance fraud and is likely to be deployed in cases where we assist our clients, especially those with spinal cord injuries, as the potential compensation is so great. Not only that, the understanding of whether the injury is complete or incomplete is so limited.
Let’s be clear, there are many clients with spinal cord injuries who do not rely on wheelchairs. That does not make them either fraudulent or malingerers. Video surveillance is not great at showing pain, laboured movement and bad days. Nor does it show what is ultimately really going on for people who have to live with all sorts of private battles with pain and disability.
Surveillance filming can take place in any public area including outside your home, whilst you are gardening, driving, at work or otherwise going about your daily routine. You do, of course, have a right to privacy so, you cannot be filmed in your own home.
Sometimes a surveillance team may deceive a claimant into demonstrating something they want to catch on film. They may be able to rely on that footage if the evidence shows dishonesty on the claimant’s part. This level of intrusion is something that happens very rarely but in one of our recent cases we had reason to be suspicious. Tracking devices were attached to our client’s vehicles and prolonged, team based surveillance was deployed. What followed was a considerable forensic battle (involving our own counter-surveillance expert) over the extent to which the footage had been edited.
It’s common for a defendant to go even further and to trawl social media for possible evidence supporting fraudulent allegations. It is certainly worth checking your privacy settings; being careful about what you post and who you allow to read your utterances on social media channels. What seems banal and harmless can excite those keen to suggest fraud, particularly when taken out of context.
Of course, should evidence gathered by surveillance illustrate fraud, dishonesty, malingering or intentional exaggeration of the injury, it is right that the court can then order the injured person to pay the amounts towards the defendant’s legal costs, even if successful in establishing that some compensation should be paid. This can leave a dishonest claimant recovering very little and having to find the money to pay the defendant’s costs.
Nobody likes the idea of being watched or of being investigated for potential fraud but it’s a fact of life. The best advice is to accept that we are watched in all sorts of situations for much of the time. Be truthful and honest with your advisors and experts who may need to examine you. If you have nothing to hide, then there is little to be concerned about but if you think that you are under surveillance do inform your solicitor.
If you would like to discuss any aspect raised in this blog or more generally how we assist clients with spinal injuries please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 08000 326623.