If you've filed a personal injury lawsuit that is asking for damages because of a physical injury you've suffered, or if you were hurt in a workplace accident and are claiming or receiving workers' compensation benefits, you may be under surveillance this Mardi Gras season. Insurers eager to cut costs regularly hire private investigators to follow litigants and insurance claimants in the hopes of filming them doing things – throwing or reaching down for beads, carrying ladders, hoisting kids on their shoulders – that the insurers can use to argue that the claimants aren't injured and are not entitled to receive damages or insurance benefits.
Mardi Gras Season is Private Investigator Season
Private investigators aren't shy at all about marketing their services to insurance companies as Mardi Gras approaches. “Mardi Gras is a week away and it's not too late to book one of our surveillance investigators!” reads one investigation company's recent ad. “Mardi Gras is the best time to capture footage of claimants out and about. Call us today to request your Mardi Gras surveillance” says another. A third company makes the point that “Mardi Gras in New Orleans is said to be the greatest free show on earth. The festival certainly presents countless opportunities to acquire covert video footage of suspicious claimants.”
How the Investigators Operate
A 2012 article about one private investigator's surveillance operations during Mardi Gras explains how it works. After soliciting hundreds of potential clients in the New Orleans area, the investigator receives a list of insurance claimants that the clients believe may be fraudulently receiving benefits for injuries that don't exist. The investigator matches their home addresses with nearby Mardi Gras parade routes, then surveils the homes to see “which ones show visible evidence of most being in the Mardi Gras spirit.” On parade day, investigators will follow the claimant, taking photos or videos of the target. In many cases, says the investigator, “we get them doing one thing or another,” which may or may not directly relate to their insurance claim, but as the article notes “might tell a jury, ‘this is who we are dealing with.'”
Whether it's carrying a cooler filled with drinks, toting a ladder with viewing platform attached to it, hoisting a toddler up on their shoulders, stooping to grab beads, or riding a float and throwing beads into the crowds, investigators can capture photo and video footage that can it seem as though a plaintiff in a personal injury case or a workers' compensation claimant is lying about their injury -- even if those particular actions during a Mardi Gras parade aren't the kinds of physical activities that are affected by their injury.
So, what should a personal injury plaintiff or workers' compensation claimant do during Mardi Gras season? Stay tuned . . . Delsa Law's next blog post will answer that question.