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4 Hours vs. Full Day?

The amount of time dedicated to surveillance each day makes a huge difference in the results we uncover. We recently surveyed over 1,000 claims adjusters, risk managers, and others in the industry that use surveillance investigative services, and we were shocked of the outcome of one of the questions.

Q: There is an ongoing debate about pulling the investigator after 4 hours of no activity. Do you believe in this practice?

A: Over 50% replied “yes.”

How can this be? Is it economy driven? Is it the fact that most surveillance companies do not produce?

Let’s set the records straight. There are few, if any, benefits of using this surveillance tactic. Although you might get “lucky” every now and then, the odds do not lie.

Surveillance Hourly Chart

4 hours of surveillance = 7% success rate in obtaining some video
One 8-hour day of surveillance = 18% success rate in obtaining some video
Two 8-hour days of surveillance = 39% success rate in obtaining some video
Three 8 hour days of surveillance = 75% success rate in obtaining some video
Five or more 8-hour days of surveillance = 100% success rate in obtaining some video

The industry has unfortunately come up with a false notion that by pulling the investigator after four hours it presents a better opportunity on the second day of surveillance. How is this possible? What hours should be worked? What if the same results are achieved?

What if we told you that the odds remain EXACTLY THE SAME – just a 7% success rate in obtaining video on day two of four-hour surveillance? It makes no logical sense to keep your odds low again and take a crap shot at getting some video to ascertain the subject’s activity level. By performing at least one full 8-hour day of surveillance, your odds increase by over two and a half times!

Why Assigning a 4-Hour Day is Counterproductive

How do you choose which four hours will produce the greatest chance to achieve the low 7% success rate? Generally, on the first day of any surveillance, you are trying to gauge when the subject is active. You are also attempting to properly identify the subject, verify vehicles, and verify their presence inside of the residence. If all of this is completed and the subject remains inactive for the full allotted time, then what have you really achieved? Nothing.


–         What if the subject was an early riser, but on that particular day he chose to perform activities inside the residence?

–         What if, at the four hour, fifteen minute mark, the subject leaves to perform an unlimited variety of activities? The investigator has departed because time is up, and any opportunities to obtain video footage are lost!


An even greater challenge is choosing which hours to perform on day two of another 4-hour assignment. Would you work the same hours and hope for a different outcome? Would you work hours after the time that was worked on the first attempt?


Let’s look at the second scenario. Generally, we start at 6:00am on day one so we would terminate efforts at 10:00am. Day two, we would work from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Starting this late places us at a huge disadvantage. The claimant could have left early and run errands past 2:00pm so now we have missed all opportunity to document the claimant. Since it is a different day of the week, the claimant could also work part time, but since we started later, we are not able to follow them. With the same 7%, we might get “lucky” this time, but the odds are still against us. The amount of time the subject is placed under surveillance directly correlates to the weight of evidence in court or mediation.


The Greater the Surveillance Time, the Greater the Weight in Court!

By assigning only four hours of surveillance, you are empowering the opposing side’s defense. The evidence’s susceptibility to the “good day, bad day argument” is massive. Lastly, to return to the numbers game, we should examine a general person’s 24-hour day. On average, an individual sleeps eight hours in a day. 16 hours remain for the person to be active. If we observe them for 4 hours, then we are only looking at 25% of their activity time. In contrast, by performing at least 8 hours the amount doubles to 50% of their activity time.


24-Hour Day

Chart 1 – 24 hours divided by 8 for sleep, 4 for surveillance and 12 for unobserved activity

Chart 2 – 24 hours divided by 8 for sleep, 8 for surveillance and 8 for unobserved activity


The Proof is in the Results
We are EXPERTS at what we do, with over two decades of experience and statistical data to make educated decisions producing industry-leading results. Do not let budgetary restrictions or poor results from other less-skilled investigators influence your decision to assign surveillance. If you want an accurate picture of what your subject’s physical activity level is, allow a full 8 hours of surveillance for each day of your investigation.


Learn more: How to Order Surveillance