How Long Does a Surveillance Last?

The longer your surveillance, the higher your opportunity to obtain a claimant on video. Keep reading to determine your surveillance needs.

By Carla Rodriguez | Nov. 20, 2023 | 4 min. read

What is a (Traditional) Surveillance:

An expert investigator provides you with qualified, comprehensive information on your claimant’s daily activities.

Investigators are skilled in covert monitoring of claimants with the goal of securing evidence. The best PI firms will customize a strategy for each case and hire surveillance staff based on gender, ethnicity, and more.

The last thing you want is your investigator sticking out like a sore thumb while completing an assignment. Surveilling different neighborhoods such as Charlotte, NC and San Antonio, TX differs greatly. Hiring the wrong person can be dangerous and inefficient.


How Long is a Surveillance?

Surveillance can last as long or as little as you need it to be. Choose a quick, hour long surveillance or get a months worth of surveillance footage that will make or break your case.

However, the preferred slot for surveillances are 4 hours. It allows enough time to obtain useful information. The longer your surveillance the higher opportunity to obtain a claimant on video.

How Long Should a Surveillance Last?

The length of this service depends on your unique case. The client services or operations team at a PI firm should learn about your case before dispatching an investigator.

Not all traditional surveillance assignments are the same but the same quality should be there regardless. This largely depends on the demands of your case and assigning the right PI.

Real Life Example:

Claimant Sally Smith was heading into the final hearing for her $70,000 insurance claim. Sally had suffered an accident months back that left her in a wheelchair with compromised mobility. Her insurance agreed to covering her disability impairment and the required physical therapy.

At the last minute, the case manager decided to request surveillance footage. Subsequently, the Claims Investigation company they hired sent a PI to her house. She was seen walking from her home to the front seat of her van and then driven to a nearby restaurant. So far, this case is suspicious since Sally Smith has been arriving to court on a wheelchair and claiming partial paralysis.

Continued surveillance was requested by the defense team to put the last nail on the coffin. On Day 3 of surveillance, Sally Smith was seen cleaning out her garage, carrying large objects and sweeping. The court promptly dismissed the case and charged the claimant with insurance fraud.


How Does Surveillance Work?

A traditional surveillance typically starts at 6am at the claimants home residence. An investigator will wait in their car and confirm they have the right person. The investigator will capture images and videos of any movement or activities the subject engages in and follow them to any new locations.

An alternative to this service would be to conduct a neighborhood canvass which collects security camera footage from surrounding areas. This service can be useful when there are many businesses or private properties with security cameras systems and can give you insight into the past.

What Happens if The Claimant Is lost?

It’s possible for the investigator to lose the claimant in traffic or stay inside their homes for an extended period of time. At this point an investigator will resume their monitoring at another time or search the surrounding area.

Losing someone in traffic happens often. A skilled investigator will keep searching the area. The PI should drive to any other relevant addresses the claimant could be in or go back to the primary residence.

The PI will then also write a report including all of their findings. There will be videos, pictures, addresses and all other details they might’ve found during their surveillance.


Bottom Line

Traditional surveillance involves expert investigators gathering comprehensive information on a claimant’s daily activities. These investigators specialize in covert monitoring to secure evidence, with top private investigation firms tailoring strategies for each case and considering factors like gender and ethnicity when hiring surveillance staff.

The effectiveness of surveillance hinges on the investigator’s ability to blend in seamlessly, avoiding detection. The length of an investigation depends on the amount of information you need about your claimant and the purpose of the surveillance. A minimum of 4 hours of surveillance is recommended with 8 hours to 3 days (24 hours worth of surveillance) considered best practice.