If you file a car accident claim and then feel like you are being watched, your instincts may be right. While more common in workers’ compensation cases, some insurance companies do sometimes hire private investigators to take photos or surveil a person injured in an accident. If the investigator can gather evidence showing the person’s injuries are not as serious as claimed, the insurance company may deny the claim and save money.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses and investigate all claims to some extent. The more money involved in a car accident claim, the more likely it is that the insurer is taking extra steps to verify the claim. Insurance fraud, including claims against coverage that provides medical payments to auto accident victims, costs at least $80 billion every year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Insurance investigators know what they can do legally when surveilling an accident victim. They cannot trespass on your property or enter your house without your permission. You may not ever know an insurance investigator has been following you or looking into your background. That’s why it is good to know what to do after a car accident and what an investigator may do after you file an injury claim.
Turn to the car accident attorneys at Joye Law for trusted guidance after a serious accident caused by another driver. Joye Law Firm has been representing injured people in South Carolina for more than 50 years and helping them rebuild their lives after serious accidents. Call 888-324-3100 for a free case review to find out how we may serve you.
What Happens During a Car Insurance Claim Investigation?
As part of the claim verification process, an insurance investigator may conduct an initial background check on you and determine whether you have filed previous injury claims or car accident lawsuits.
In addition to reviewing the information provided in your claim and looking at the police report, an investigator may examine:
- The accident scene
- Vehicle damage
- Medical authorizations
- Your social media accounts for posts, photos or other information about the accident and your injuries
- Your background.
A private investigator is not allowed to listen to your phone calls or rummage through your email account. But the investigator can access a variety of public records to learn more about you, such as:
- Current and previous addresses and phone numbers (which may indicate more places to look for background information)
- Criminal records
- Marriages and divorces
- Mortgage records
- Bankruptcy and foreclosure records, liens, judgements, evictions
- Professional licenses
Some insurance companies have their own investigators and others hire private investigators to assist. They are seeking evidence to show that you are not as seriously injured as you claim. For example, if you post recent vacation photos on a social media account, the investigator may try to use the photos showing you having fun to call into question the seriousness of your injuries.
As part of an investigation, an insurance investigator may follow you. The investigator may do so to see whether you attend doctor or rehab appointments. If you are involved in a car accident lawsuit and sit for a deposition, the insurer might ask about activities you can no longer take part in because of your injuries. An investigator may follow you afterward hoping to observe you doing things you said you can’t do any longer.
A private investigator may also try to interview your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers. People who know you will probably know about your accident.
Is It Legal for the Insurance Company to Spy on You After an Accident?
In most cases, if an insurance investigator stays on public property, it is not illegal for them to watch you or photograph you. It is no different legally than someone watching you walk by on a sidewalk or in a store. Even an investigator on a public street watching you through an open window at your home is probably not breaking the law. They may not take photographs through the window of a home.
However, an investigator should not watch you in places where you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in a bathroom or bedroom or at a doctor’s or lawyer’s office.
Further, you do not have to answer an investigator’s questions or allow them into your home or onto your property. It is illegal for investigators to present themselves as someone they are not, such as a police officer. If you ask an investigator to leave your property and they refuse, they are trespassing. You should call the police.
How Long Does a Car Accident Investigation Take?
Insurance companies in South Carolina should process claims in a reasonable amount of time. However, that timeframe can vary from claim to claim. The number of vehicles involved in a claim or coverage issues can complicate the settlement process. South Carolina law only requires insurers to settle claims with reasonable promptness.
After a serious accident, an individual who has suffered severe injuries needs to wait until he or she has achieved the best medical recovery possible to account for all of the costs and losses associated with an accident. Calculating the full costs and losses to maximize your financial recovery is part of a personal injury attorney’s investigation of your car accident.
If an insurance company refuses to pay compensation on a valid car accident claim within a reasonable time, the insurance company may be acting in bad faith. Legal action may be appropriate.
It’s important to keep in mind that South Carolina’s statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit typically is three years from the date of the accident in most cases. It is two years after the injury if the defendant is a government entity. It’s best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after being injured in a car accident to determine what time limits apply in your case.
Contact a South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Today
You cannot prevent an insurance company from investigating your claim. The best way to protect your rights after a serious car accident is to seek the guidance of an experienced car accident lawyer. In South Carolina, Joye Law Firm has been successfully representing injured people just like you for more than 50 years.
Joye Law Firm can investigate your car accident and advise you about avoiding mistakes that could undermine your claim. If we believe you have a car accident injury claim, we can help you seek maximum compensation. With Joye Law on your side, you can tell anyone questioning your claim to speak to your attorney.
Contact us at 888-324-3100 or online and get started with a free, no-obligation legal consultation today.