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Why injured maritime workers have to watch out for surveillance video

Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom


A private investigator hired to follow you from your house to your job, to dinner, or your friends’ and family’s events sounds like something out of a bad movie. It is not. That is standard practice in personal injury claims in the maritime industry. It is important that you know you are under surveillance at all times.

Imagine a man sitting in a car with a Sony Handycam trained on your home. You don’t notice because it is 6:00 AM and it is still dark out when you head to work. Everywhere you go during the day, he is following you, staying just far enough away that you don’t detect him. If you go to get lunch, he is right there. When you run an errand, he is right there. If you are talking to friends or playing with your young children, his Handycam is on you.

How a surveillance video can affect your maritime injury lawsuit

What makes this disturbing practice even worse is that it could cost you all of the money that your employer who negligently injured you should be paying you. That is because of the Texas Supreme Court.  The Texas Supreme Court has recently ruled that, even when a trial judge decides that the video should not be shown to the jury, it might still be shown to the jury. In that case, the Texas Supreme Court stated: “If, as it is often said, a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth exponentially more. Images have a tremendous power to persuade, both in showing the truth and distorting it.”

The real harm of presenting this type of evidence is it distorts what a juror thinks is the truth. For example, a person may say that they cannot do daily activities as well as they could before. That may be because they absolutely cannot do the activities at all, or it may be because they cannot do it as quickly, easily, or in a pain-free way like they could before. Each and every one of those is a valid reason a negligent employer should compensate an injured worker.

However, if there is a video of someone raking their yard and the defendants jump on their chair and scream “See, look! This person can rake leaves! They are faking it!!” some jurors will believe that. The tragedy is that the video does not show how much pain the person is in after a brief stint of raking leaves. The surveillance video does not show how they could do it faster before they were injured. It does not show that they can no longer do other activities that they used to be able to do. The surveillance video distorts the picture.

What to do

  • It is crucial that you tell the truth in a deposition. Not some vaguely accurate, but mostly exaggerated, story of the problems you are dealing with. Any misstatement can give the defendants a chance to call you a liar and take your credibility and your just compensation away from you. Don’t make it harder for yourself to win. Telling the truth helps your lawyers get you the compensation you deserve.
  • From day one, you are watched by a private investigator. You are being watched until the day your lawsuit is settled. Everything will be caught on film.
  • Tell your attorney right away if your condition changes. If you couldn’t rake leaves for the first 6 months after being injured and now you can, tell your attorney.
  • Talk to your attorney if you have any questions about the legality of someone covertly filming you.

How VB Attorneys can help you avoid having a surveillance video ruin your maritime injury lawsuit

Contact us if you were hurt working on a vessel or on the job as a seaman and believe your injuries are a result of your company’s negligence. Our Board Certified attorneys have helped hundreds of maritime workers and seamen get the compensation they deserve and may be able to help you, too. Call us now at 877-7247-7800 or fill out a contact form on our website.