Sadly, when you are in a collision and you are suing to recover the full and complete compensation to which you are entitled, insurance companies and their private investigators are doing their best to undermine your case. Two well-known and common insurance company tactics are (1) to conduct surveillance and (2) to mine your social media postings and uploads for damaging evidence. There are many ways to combat these tactics — and to help your trusted and experienced Acworth auto accident attorney win your case. Here is a quick discussion.
Acworth Auto Accident Attorneys — Surveillance and Private Investigators
During the process of litigation, attorneys for all parties will attempt to locate video and photographic evidence related to the collision. This is normal and, as just noted, all parties will attempt to find this type of evidence. Examples include trying to locate footage or images from
- Traffic cameras;
- Closed caption video on nearby buildings;
- ATM cameras at or in nearby buildings;
- On-vehicle and in-vehicle cameras;
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What is more nefarious are efforts by the insurance companies and defense attorneys to hire private investigators to conduct surveillance via video and still-photograph cameras. This is common and, unfortunately legal if the surveillance is done in public spaces. The insurance companies hire private investigators who specialize in personal injury-type cases — like car accidents and workers’ compensation. The investigators are asked to follow the accident victims and record any behavior that shows the victim is “faking it” or is exaggerating the extent of his or her injuries. The Honolulu Civil Beat has done a recent series of articles on the practice. See here and here. As reported, the investigators do their best to disguise themselves so that the person being watched is unaware of the surveillance. The investigators use small hidden cameras located in items like a watch, a pen, eyeglasses, a key fob or a button of his shirt.
As noted, the purpose of the surveillance is to find evidence to use against you at trial. As the article relates, sometimes the alleged victims ARE faking it. As described in the reports, the private investigator obtained photo evidence of an exotic dancer who was claiming that she injured her back while working. However, the video of her dancing showed that her back was not injured.
Some investigators resort to some ethically dubious tactics. As reported here, some investigators have admitted to putting paper and other trash on a victim’s lawn in the early morning in an effort to get photos or video of the victim bending and picking up the trash. If the victim was claiming an inability to bend or other movement limitations, such photos/video can be used to devastating effect at trial.
Acworth Auto Accident Attorneys — Social Media Mining
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A related tactic — also perfectly legal — is to search through your social media posting for evidence to undermine your case. The case of Orr v. Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc., Case No. CV416-052 (US Dict. S.D. Ga. October 25, 2016) provides a good example. In that case, the plaintiffs sued Macy’s for personal injuries after a fitting room door fell on Mrs. Orr at a Savannah, Georgia Macy’s store. Mrs. Orr claimed that, as a result of her injuries, she had pain running up her arm into the side of her neck and face and that she was limited in her daily activities. Macy’s hired private investigators to surveil Mrs. Orr and also obtained copies of public facebook postings. According to Macy’s, the facebook postings showed Mrs. Orr attending social gatherings, sporting events and dancing which rebutted her claims that her daily activities were limited. Further, some photos showed Mrs. Orr using her right arm in a manner inconsistent with her alleged injuries and wearing clothing that her doctors said would cause her excruciating pain.
An Arkansas case provides another good example. See Clement v. Johnson’s Warehouse Showroom, 388 SW 3d 469 (Ark. App. 2012). In that case, a worker claimed he was injured on the job and that the pain in his back was so severe that he could not work. However, he posted photos on facebook showing himself drinking and having fun at a party. The trial court admitted the “party photos” as some evidence showing that he was not as injured as he claimed. The trial court was upheld on appeal. See news report here.
Acworth Auto Accident Attorneys — Can Be Used At Trial
Here in Georgia, surveillance photos/video and social media posts CAN be used at trial (as long at the other evidentiary requirements are met such as foundation and relevance). See Lupoe v. State, 794 SE 2d 67 (Ga. Supreme Court 2016) (where gang membership was at issue, facebook page was properly admitted where page referenced the relevant gang).
Acworth Auto Accident Attorneys — What Can You Do?
To avoid the pitfalls of surveillance and damaging social media content, first, make sure you hire good Georgia personal injury attorney who fully understand the Georgia rules of evidence. Under some circumstances, video and other surveillance taken without consent can be excluded from use at trial. See Georgia Code, OCGA § 16-11-62 which states:
“It shall be unlawful for . . . [a]ny person, through the use of any device, without the consent of all persons observed, to observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view…”
See also OCGA §16-11-67; Rutter v. Rutter, 730 SE 2d 626 (Ga. Court of Appeals 2012); State v. Cohen, Case No. S17A1265 (Ga. Supreme Court November 2, 2017). Other steps to take include:
- Do not post on social media
- Ask friends and family to not post on social media with respect to you
- Obey any and all of your doctor’s medical advice with respect to physical limitations
- Be aware of the possibility of surveillance
- Immediately report any suspected surveillance to your attorneys
Acworth Car Accidents: Contact the Roger Ghai Law Offices
For more information, contact the skilled auto accident attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices Our attorneys know Georgia auto accident law and the rules of evidence. We have years of experience helping residents of Acworth recover the compensation to which they are entitled. Click here to schedule a consultation. We provide legal services for the residents of Cobb County including the communities of Acworth, Marietta, Kennesaw and surrounding areas.