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Smile, you could be on camera if making a claim

Yes, it’s true. Right here in the Okanagan.  There really are private investigators with video cameras spying on car crash victims.

Is it fair to call it spying?  Let’s see.  The taping is done surreptitiously, with the crash victim not being notified that it is taking place.  The videographer follows the crash victim around, cloak and dagger style, so as not to be detected.  The purpose of the exercise is to get footage that will hurt the crash victim’s claim.  It sounds a lot like spying to me.  It’s definitely looking, walking and quacking much like a duck.

How would you feel if you were a car crash victim, knowing that at any given time there could be a video camerawielding agent of the insurance company following you around and taping your every move?

Think about how you feel when a friend or family member brings out a camcorder.  Most people feel a little uncomfortable; a little self-conscious.  You try like heck not to look silly.  Some people scurry off to the side to avoid being the focus of the camera-wielder’s attention.

Car crash victims face the prospect of being video taped at any time, day or night.  Instead of a friend or family member, the person behind the camera is a stranger whose job it is to try to hurt their claim for fair compensation for their injuries.  They have no opportunity to compose themselves for the camera because that stranger is certainly not going to announce when the taping will start and when it will stop.

Would you feel that your privacy was being trampled on?  Might this perhaps lead to anxiety or paranoia?  People who have been victimized by car crashes can be further victimized by these sorts of antics.  An already fragile emotional state, due to the pain and significant life impacts from an injury, can be further damaged by anxiety that is bound to arise from surreptitious video surveillance.

Aside from the anxiety that crash victims may feel from the prospect of being watched and video taped, it is my view that this kind of cloak and dagger video taping is unfair.

The car crash victims I have worked with struggle to live normal lives.  They modify how they do things so that it isn’t obvious that they are suffering pain.  They do their best to smile.  They know that the general public have been conditioned by the insurance industry to look at them with suspicion.  They try to avoid the negative perceptions by maintaining a healthylooking facade.

They even behave this way with me when they come for their update consultations, greeting me with a smile as if everything is ok, only to break down emotionally when I ask the probing questions about how things are really going for them.

The tape isn’t rolling when the crash victims return to their homes, physically and emotionally spent, and collapse on the couch with a heating pad.  The tape isn’t rolling the day after they push their activity level that little bit too far and are struggling with a pounding headache.

Should you be concerned about being video taped if you have been in a car crash?  Should you be careful about pushing your physical limits for fear that the footage may unfairly misrepresent your abilities?

My advice is to try to ignore the possibility that someone may be following you around with a video camera.  Live your life to the fullest extent possible.  You are already dealing with limitations caused by your injury. Don’t let these kinds of antics get in the way of living.

I believe that a jury of your peers will see through the insurance company’s tactics.  I believe that justice can be achieved.

Published April 8, 2007 in the Kelowna Capital News