Insurance Investigations: Gathering Information To Undermine Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury claims are expensive for insurance companies, so even though they are supposed to pay up whenever we get hurt, they often will investigate any accident and injury extensively before paying up a single cent. This article explores this stage of the personal injury process, covering:
- The sources of information insurance companies will use (including at least one you’d never suspect they could).
- The three things insurance companies are looking for when conducting their information gathering.
- The one modern tool that is changing everything for personal injury insurance investigators.
How Do Insurance Companies Investigate And Gather Evidence To Support Their Defense In Personal Injury Cases?
Information is at the heart of every case, and insurance companies will pursue many avenues to get anything they can use to their advantage against you.
Step 1: Police Sources
The first thing insurance companies will try to get their hands on when investigating an accident or personal injury claim is the police report. The police report will say what happened and who did what, along with any admissions at the scene. Sometimes, they will also try to get the 911 audio call for the same general reason: looking for a reason to undermine your claim.
Step 2: Why The Insurance Companies Really Want Your Social Security Number
Usually, what happens next after you report an accident, but before you hire an attorney, is that the insurance company will try to get you to turn over your social security number. They will say it is because they have to report to Medicare to see if you are Medicare eligible, which is ridiculous when they do it, even for a teenager or someone in their twenties.
They really want your social security number to run you through their system to see if you have had any prior crashes or pre-existing conditions. A 35-year-old might happily turn over their social security number when the insurance company talks about Medicare eligibility for subrogation purposes. They will think the insurance company would never be nefarious or lie to them.
Then they take that social security number, run it through their system, and find out you’ve had a crash, and then they say, well, we’re not paying as much because you had a crash five years ago. So that’s a little trick that they’ll do to investigate.
Step 3: How The Insurance Company Will Try To Use Your Medical Information And History Against You
The main way that insurance companies investigate, however, is by looking at medical records and medical billing. They’ll also want to look at diagnostic testing, MRIs, X-rays, or anything else. The films don’t lie after all, so you can send them copies of the films, and they will look at that when assessing your injuries for compensation.
But this is not always a bad thing; often, these records will make up the foundational proof of your claim against them. So, it is always wise to work with your attorney to ensure nothing in your records could hurt your case. Because if there is, the insurance companies can and will find it and use it against you.
Step 4: How Insurance Companies Get Away With Literally Spying On People
Lastly, insurance companies will send out their secret weapon: private investigators. These will try to take photographs of you and your daily life, anything that will show you walking around “like normal” and not incapacitated or suffering. This is an unreasonable trick, however. The pictures they chose for their case are only a snapshot without any of the relevant context.
For example, they might point out a picture of the plaintiff cutting the grass and argue that she must not be hurt. But the picture does not show that after she was done cutting the grass, she went inside and laid down on a heating pad and couldn’t get up for the next six hours.
What Can You Argue Against An Insurance Company With “Compromising” Pictures?
Often, defeating such underhanded strategies lies in helping the judge or jury understand the context and the pain an injury causes. For example, in herniation cases, you can argue (and get expert testimony to verify) that the pain is like a pilot light on a stove or a water heater. That little flame flickers all the time, but then it flares up sometimes, and you cannot do anything at all.
Most clients with herniated discs can still do almost anything an uninjured person can. But their experience will be dramatically different. They might still go to the gym and get a workout, but they cannot push as hard. If they do, there will be hell to pay the next day, so the experience is different.
Insurance companies and their defense attorneys will try to get clients in trouble by asking what they cannot do and then finding a PI to get a picture of them doing that, whether it is mowing the lawn or walking upstairs. Even though it does not show that when the client decides to take the stairs, they have to take breaks, and going out becomes a whole mission. Nor does it show how when they get back in, they have to lay down and sit on a heating pad all day.
And that can affect any experience. Some clients can still go to a movie and enjoy the flick but will have to fidget and can never quite get comfortable. Another might still go to a religious service and enjoy the message but will never feel good and have to move around, unable to get comfortable.
Defeating these private eye tactics often involves sharing such deep, repeated personal experiences that the jury understands and sees beyond the snapshots and shallow arguments.
What Is Every Insurance Investigator’s Secret Weapon?
Finally, social media is the most modern trend that insurance company investigators cannot get enough of. They will request things that you have posted on your social media accounts, though often they will not even need to request them, as social media information is often published publicly.
Often, defense attorneys will request everything, but they should be limited to things on social media related to your physical injury or photos of you. In other words, they cannot say, send me all your social media posts. A picture of your nephew’s graduation that you are not even in is probably outside the scope of discovery, but pictures of you skiing in Colorado that is probably discoverable. And if you post that, it is going to come out.
Such pictures are not necessarily the end of your case, though. Clients who have gone skiing after injuries can still argue that they did so despite the pain. They have crippling pain but still decided not to let it keep them from living and experiencing something like skiing. You won’t be able to argue that you were not able to do so, but you can point out that the experience was different. You probably couldn’t ski as long, could only do one trail, or could not do the trails that you normally skied with your kids on.
Context matters. And for each and every argument the insurance company and their investigators make to try to undermine your case and claim. Your personal injury attorney will be able to come up with two more to defend your position and your suffering and help you earn the full and fair compensation you deserve.
For more information on Investigation and Evidence Gathering By Insurance Companies, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (954) 546-7608 today.