Posted on behalf of Henness & Haight on Sep 16, 2009 in Insurance News
It seems like every day we hear about "new technology" changing the way most of us live and work. Laptop Computers, Email, Text messaging, the Internet - these things are now considered absolutely "essential" for millions of Americans. Most people extol the virtues of this "new" technology; however, there are some downsides, especially when it comes to privacy concerns and the big insurance companies. This is particularly true when filing a personal injury case in a city like Las Vegas. When my partner and I first started practicing law, we were generally able to control and filter a lot of what the insurance companies learned about our clients. If it was related to the accident and the injuries it was fair game but if it wasn't, the information was not shared. These days everyone with access to the internet can learn more about someone in a few hours than a Private Investigator used to be able to do in weeks. This means that most of what used to be our own "private and personal" information is available to anyone who wants to see it. Rest assured, checking you out on the web is one of the first things an insurance adjuster now does when a claim is opened on your behalf. What are these adjusters looking for? Primarily, they are looking for information that can be used to discredit you and the legitimacy of your claim. For instance, if you have a criminal record or have ever filed bankruptcy this could impact how the insurance adjuster evaluates you. You should always tell your lawyer about these things so they can't be used against you in an "ambush" situation. It's better for us to know and be prepared than to be caught unawares and with no logical response.
The same holds true for prior claims. If you have ever made a prior insurance claim the adjuster will know this information almost immediately. The adjuster will know: how you were injured; what was wrong with you; the total amount of your medical bills; and, the dollar amount of your eventual settlement. This information could determine the way your current claim is evaluated, especially if you forget to tell your doctors about the prior injuries. Adjusters and their lawyers will argue that you intentionally misled your doctors into believing your injuries were caused by the new accident when in actuality your injuries were "preexisting." That is why it is so important to give each of your doctors a complete medical "history" noting all previous injuries and accidents. Also, explain how long it has been since you have suffered any ill effects from those prior injuries. Internet Web Postings are another rich source of material for insurance adjusters. You should always remember to be extremely careful with any information you post on such websites as MYSPACE, FACEBOOK, CRAIG'S LIST, etc., including photographs and biographical information. As soon as this information is posted it becomes part of the public domain. For instance, any photographs posted by you engaging in any physical activity (like bowling, rollerblading, skiing, etc.) will be found and used by the insurance company to argue that you are "not really hurt." This might be true even if you engaged in the activity before the accident or if you only tried the activity for a short while and stopped due to the pain it caused. Please know that any ranting you post online regarding your claim or any other topic will be viewed by the adjuster. In some instances, insurance companies can even subpoena your cell phone bills to see who you called and to view your test messages. This information can be used by the insurance companies and their lawyers to argue that you are dishonest, unlikable or a "bad person". And insurers know that jurors never award money to rude or dishonest people. Increasingly, insurance companies are using private investigators to secretly videotape injured claimants, especially when the injuries are serious in nature. What the insurance company hopes to accomplish is obtaining footage that could incriminate and/or place at issue the validity of your injuries. These videos can be very damaging to your claim. They will not show you lying on the couch resting and in pain after whatever strenuous activity you just undertook. Instead, they will only show you bending, squatting, lifting, etc... If you're injured, be aware that there is a possibility you could be under surveillance and adjust your activity level accordingly. While all of this might feel like an illegal invasion of your privacy, unfortunately, it is not. By pursuing a claim you are placing the state of your health and well-being at issue. Therefore, it is perfectly legal for an insurance company to research you on the internet or have your activities recorded. Remember, don't make that job any easier - it's always better to be safe than sorry. And when in doubt, call us. We're always here to answer your questions and help you any way we can.