The following is a guest blog post by the Houston, Texas Maritime Lawyers of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. regarding surveillance of injured workers in a maritime context.
Our maritime lawyers want to warn injured seamen of an extremely common practice in the maritime industry. Most maritime employers or marine adjusters will hire private investigators to obtain videotape surveillance of workers who have been injured, often spending tens of thousands of dollars trying to catch their injured workers in a “lie.” Very often this videotape surveillance will begin almost immediately after the worker is injured in an offshore accident. There are at least three reasons that a maritime employer wishes to receive video surveillance tape of an injured offshore worker.
REASON ONE: Employers believe an injured seaman or longshoreman is not really hurt.
If the injured employee shows on video that he can still perform heavy work or strenuous work, this will hurt or even destroy his maritime personal injury claim. Certainly, if the employee has previously told his employer or a doctor that he cannot perform certain activities, but videotape evidence shows him performing such tasks, this will be looked upon as a clear misrepresentation of the nature and degree of injury. In such a situation, your employer or their adjuster will use the videotaped surveillance to rebut your claim for injuries entirely or to weaken your case significantly.
REASON TWO: Employers don’t think injured workers are honest.
If you deny participation in certain activities such a mowing your lawn, taking out the trash, cleaning your car, driving your children to school, even after the videotape has been obtained by your employer, this can show you to be a dishonest person and therefore make any claims or statements you make less believable overall. Meaning, that it is not necessarily the severity of the activities you are performing on video, but the denial of participation that is the issue.
REASON THREE: Your employer will want to show your quality of life to the judge and jury as being “good” so that your damages are less.
The humanizing function of a videotape will allow anyone who watches it to get to know you in an intimate way. More than mere words, video tape provides the judge or jury with a visual picture of the injured employee’s life and how it was changed as a result of their on-the-job injury. Very often, surveillance video will show you working in the yard, doing household chores, playing with your kids, and other normal daily activities.
Although the injured seaman is not shown performing anything criminal or is not caught in a life, the tape will still show that life continued, even though you are hurt.
Surveillance videotape of an injured worker is often one of the toughest challenges you can will face during a deposition, mediation or even at trial. If you are injured and you enter a maritime claim against your employer, it is important to remember that your employer is watching you. For more information about maritime injury surveillance and other Texas maritime law issues, please contact the law firm of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-800-282-2122.