If You Are Injured, Beware of What the Insurance Companies May be Doing

By: Kevin T. Veugeler

The day began like most days for a construction worker from Ireland. In the early morning hours, he drove his work van to a construction site. As he sat in traffic waiting to make a turn, a speeding school bus slammed into his van from behind. The force of the impact pushed the van across the street into a drainage ditch.

The young worker was significantly injured in the collision, and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. For several years he received treatment for severe headaches, memory issues and nerve damage to his leg. Despite evaluation from a series of specialists, the injuries were permanent.

As a result, the young man pursued a claim against the bus company's insurance company to receive compensation for his injuries, medical expenses and inability to return back to work in the construction trade.

Logic would suggest that the matter could be resolved given the facts of the case. Unfortunately, rather than acknowledge its responsibility under the law, the insurance carrier chose to dispute the claim.

How did it do this? Not by having the worker evaluated by a top notch doctor to determine the extent of his injuries. Not by sending the worker for diagnostic tests to measure his physical capabilities. Nor did the insurance company attempt to offer a fair, appropriate settlement. Instead, the insurance company sent out a surveillance team to hide in the bushes and videotape the activities of the young man.

The surveillance team followed the worker for several days. But the insurance company wasn't interested in an accurate depiction of the victim's activities, as no attempt was made to film him as he went to his doctor visits or rehabilitation sessions. Instead, the insurance company presented edited snippets of the young man going to the gas station, going to the store and getting in and out of his car. The insurance company intended to suggest that the severe injuries did not interfere with the man's daily activities or have a significant impact on his life.

The case was tried two years ago resulting in a multimillion dollar verdict. The trial court excluded the insurance company's video from evidence. Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court unanimously held that such edited videotape was improper, and that it was correct to exclude it as evidence. The court explained that edited videotape suggests that an injured person is capable of extended periods of activity, when, in fact, the activities are performed only for a short period.

This case highlights the lengths some insurance companies go to avoid their responsibility. It also serves as a cautionary tale for these individuals with a claim against an insurer. If you have been injured and are making a claim beware. The man in the bushes might not be a gardener, but a cameraman attempting to paint an unfair and inaccurate picture of your injuries.

In the interim, while the insurance company has refused to settle the matter, one positive thing for the young Irishman is that interest must be paid by the company on the original verdict at a rate of 9% per year while the insurance company pursues various appeals.