We’ve all been there. The adjuster denies the claim on the basis that the damage pre-existed the date of loss. To support their position, they provide historic aerial images of the property from EaglevView/Pictometry. But the question becomes, do the pictures support what they say they do?
Recently, I deposed the Vice President of Customer Technical Services for EagleView/Pictometry (“Pictometry”) and understand a little more about these images. One of the services Pictometry provides is to take aerial photographs of large geographical regions based upon requests from local or federal governmental agencies. This allows Pictometry to create a large database of aerial imagery from all over the United States. Unless specifically requested, aerial images of geographical regions throughout the United States are captured approximately every three years.
Pictometry utilizes its own airplanes and camera equipment to take the photographs from various directions and specific altitudes. The images captured are recorded with certain metadata, which includes the specific date they are taken. Each pixel within the recorded image correlates to a certain number of inches of actual ground space. The location of the photograph is then confirmed utilizing Google maps, street overlays and longitudinal/latitudinal metadata captured within the photograph.
What’s important to note is that the native format of any photograph taken from Pictometry is the large aerial overview image. These images are then made available to users through its software program where a user can view images, zoom-in on images, and/or crop images. Cropping images allows a user to select a particular portion of an aerial image—such as a specific house or building—and frame a smaller subunit of the larger photograph.
Because of the altitude at which the image is captured, each pixel within the image represents a certain number of inches of actual ground space or topography captured. Because each pixel represents a number of inches of ground space, the accuracy of the image and its resolution can be lost and the image can become pixelated when an image is cropped.
Therefore, the question becomes: Is the condition observed by the adjuster or engineer in the historic photograph actually what it purports to be, or is it merely a distortion? Ultimately, there may be no way of knowing as Pictometry cannot state whether a particular condition exists or not. Rather, it is the adjuster or engineer’s interpretation of a given photo. But knowing it is a zoomed or cropped image may help in determining the accuracy of the image.