Fact or Fiction: Only lousy investigators get burned (caught) by claimants.
Answer: False.

The quarterback sneak is clearly football’s most basic play. Snap the ball. Plow forward. End of story. Right?


In reality, the sneak features a multi-layered plan of attack dependent on a flawless center-quarterback exchange, a significant line surge amidst a world of 350-pound behemoths, and the ball carrier’s ability to remain patient for that critical nanosecond before plunging ahead. If any one of these elements fails, it could mean the difference between winning and losing.

Along those lines, to the casual observer the surveillance business may seem blandly straightforward. Investigator sits in car with camera. Investigator films claimant with said camera. End of story. Right?


Just like the quarterback sneak, a successful surveillance depends on multiple factors, some of which are beyond the investigator’s control.


In reality, the only investigators who never get caught are those who don’t show up. While that may seem like a sweeping statement, folks, that’s a fact.

Check out these scenarios.

· The head of the neighborhood watch notices an unusual vehicle in the community and calls the police. Despite the investigator notifying law enforcement in advance, patrol cars arrive with their lights flashing and sirens blaring. The claimant looks out his window, understandably, and watches the scene. While he may be unaware of the exact circumstances, that claimant will at least become cognizant of the investigator’s vehicle. Worse, in many instances the local officer will make known the fact that an investigator was on the street. This can sometimes be avoided by taking the police around the corner away from the claimant’s view. However, it may still cause a big enough neighborhood stir to warrant suspending surveillance for a few days. As the client, however, the most disturbing ramification is that you might receive a call from the claimant informing you that the police ran off your investigator. Truth be told, claimants will often say this even though they’re unaware of surveillance in the area. In situations like the above-referenced, though, it can clearly lead to an uncomfortable conversation.

· The neighborhood in which the investigator is working might double as one of the many workers’ comp compounds dotting this country’s residential landscape. Such neighborhoods are filled with convicted criminals, drug dealers, and of course, a number of allegedly disabled people. Most investigators have had at least one experience in which a claimant has confronted them on surveillance. Sadly, the claimant doing the confronting is not always the claimant under surveillance. With so many claimants in a given area, the investigator was bound to end up on one of their doorsteps. Of course, regardless of whether or not the confronting claimant is being watched, you can bet he’ll spread the word that investigators are in the area. Again, this may prompt a call from your claimant demanding that you stop harassing him. And again, this was not necessarily the investigator’s fault.

· Possibly the most interesting scenario involving a “burned” investigator stems from claimant paranoia. Some claimants are so suspicious, they think the squirrels in the front yard are investigators. A recent case in Columbus, Georgia comes to mind. The claimant actually completed an affidavit describing how the investigator had been relentlessly pursuing him. Said claimant went into great detail describing the situations in which he confronted the investigator and told the investigator to leave him alone. What makes this story interesting is that our investigator was not watching the claimant on the days in question. Furthermore, the claimant’s description of the investigator’s vehicle was completely wrong. To be specific, the claimant stated that the investigator was driving a blue Chevrolet Camaro when, in fact, the investigator was driving a white Ford F-150 pickup truck. When the client contacted our offices, he was irate. However, after reviewing our records, the truth, as they say, set us free. Plus it gave everyone a laugh.

· Finally, there are occasions when the claimant directly makes the investigator. This may be the result of extensive moving automobile surveillance, an aggressive surveillance position, a hyper alert claimant with solid coaching from an experienced attorney, or unfortunately, investigator carelessness. (At Ethos, we like to keep that last one at a minimum.)

Clearly, the above examples illustrate how a “burned” investigator is not always at fault. Like a mishandled snap on the quarterback sneak, it’s an unfortunate reality in the world of surveillance.

Plus, in all honesty, the prevailing belief among investigators is that if you never get caught, you’re not being adequately aggressive. That belief is correct. To get results, investigators will need to take chances. Of course, taking chances means that, on occasion, investigators will suffer a failure or two. Still, if an investigator’s triumphs far outweigh his flops, that’s an investigator you want on your file.

One final note.

You hired the investigator because, on some level, you believe your claimant is dishonest. So why, if the claimant calls to say he’s being watched, would they suddenly become honest? Granted, sometimes they’re right. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that you and the investigator are on the same team. You want the same results. You have the same goal.

Forgive the occasional fumble and you’ll be rewarded with a high-scoring surveillance.