It’s no secret that video cameras are all around us. Especially in public spaces like stores, banks and airports. Even on the streets of many towns, we’re continuously being monitored by video—and often recorded. While video footage is typically gathered in the name of public safety—by police body cams and traffic cameras, for instance—it’s true that it can have broader applications, and it’s particularly useful in personal injury cases.
In fact, one of the first things insurance adjusters—as well as personal injury attorneys—look for when investigating an injury claim or case, is video footage that might show the mechanism of injury – i.e. how a person was hurt.
Whether it’s a slip and fall/premises liability case or a pedestrian accident that resulted in significant injury or wrongful death, there are often video or still photography images available related to the original incident that are available and could be useful as evidence.
So, can video footage make or break a personal injury case? In short, absolutely.
Today’s post highlights the types of surveillance footage that might be brought in as video evidence to either prove or disprove your injuries. We’ll take a brief look at Pennsylvania’s rules about how video evidence may be used in personal injury cases, as well.
It’s important to remember that when you or a loved one has suffered an injury—or even death—based on another’s negligence, it is your right to seek compensation for your financial losses, pain and suffering, and future disability from the parties at fault for the injuries. And, our experienced personal trial lawyers at May, May & Zimmerman are here to help you build the strongest possible case.
Types of Video Surveillance Footage
While there are cameras literally everywhere today—installed in public and semi-public spaces, located on individuals’ private properties, and in nearly everyone’s pockets, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones—some types of footage are more common as evidence in personal injury cases.
Below are some of the recordings you should look for and make sure that your attorney aware of in your personal injury case:
Law Enforcement Video Recordings
Most police vehicles, as well as officers themselves, are now outfitted with cameras. These cameras can record law enforcement interactions with individuals, accident scene footage, and crimes in progress. Especially in personal injury cases involving car accidents and drunk driving situations, police video can be beneficial.
For instance, there are plenty of examples in which an at-fault driver admits on video to being impaired, falling asleep at the wheel, or committing other infractions while interacting with police at the scene of a crash. This footage can undoubtedly help your attorney support your case as the injured party.
In a recent case in which our client was injured by a drunk driver, the defendant initially denied responsibility and denied being intoxicated. Because the defendant driver refused a blood test, her insurance carrier maintained that there was no proof the defendant was intoxicated and made a “lowball” settlement offer. However, our office filed a lawsuit, as well as a motion to obtain footage from the police car’s dash cam as well as the officer’s body cam. The video we obtained from the police clearly showed the defendant’s car running a stop sign and T boning our client’s vehicle in a violent collision. The officer’s body cam captured the defendant’s slurred speech and staggering in in the moments after the crash. When confronted with this evidence, the defendant’s insurance company agreed to settle the claim for more than $450,000.
Indoor and Outdoor Security Camera Footage
The main point of security cameras in places like stores, transit depots (airports, bus stations, etc.), ATMs, and recreational spaces is typically to deter crimes like theft and vandalism. However, these cameras routinely record acts of violence, accidents, and other personal injury scenarios, often inadvertently.
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While capable, experienced trial attorneys are always mindful that this footage may exist and will aggressively pursue it, you should be looking for recording devices in the immediate aftermath of an injury causing event. Before your initial consultation with an attorney, take the time to check what cameras may have been recording in the vicinity of your accident or fall. Many security camera systems will record over footage that could be helpful to your case within as little as a week or two if a request is not made to preserve such evidence.
In a case such as a slip and fall, security camera evidence can be invaluable. This is because insurance adjusters and jurors inevitably attribute some degree of fault to the individual who falls. “He/she should have been more careful / watched where they were going / looked before they stepped…” All are common refrains. When your attorneys obtain security camera footage, they have the evidence to show the insurance company and/or jurors that you were being careful and that you were watching where you were walking. This footage also frequently shows how sudden and violent these unexpected falls can be.
We recently represented a client in a slip and fall against a regional convenience store chain, who came to our office only after calling the number provided to her by the store manager to report her claim and being ignored for almost two weeks. We immediately filed a lawsuit against the store and demanded that the store produce its security camera footage. The footage, in fact, showed that our client was walking carefully, but that she suddenly and violently fell on black ice. Furthermore, the video showed that the store and its snow removal contractor failed to follow the store’s policies and procedures, which allowed shoveled snow to accumulate along its sidewalks. This snow had melted and re-froze. In the end, a case which could have gotten bogged down in accusations that our client was contributorily negligent settled for $350,000.
Mobile Device Camera Footage
Getting access to footage from cell phones and tablets of witnesses to your personal injury can be tricky. For instance, if you are unaware that there were witnesses to your injury event; but an experienced personal injury attorney will thoroughly explore this avenue during the discovery process.
Additionally, there is another type of mobile phone or device footage that can affect your case—videos that you, your friends or your family post on social media. We advise anyone involved in litigation to avoid social media altogether, as posts can be easily misconstrued, but when you are involved in a personal injury case, it is imperative that you do not post videos or photos of yourself that might call your injury into question. Sometimes, old pictures or videos, taken prior to the date of your injury, are posted after the date of your injury. Insurance companies may discover these posts, question your credibility, and take a much more confrontational stance in handling your claim. Be warned: there are countless examples in the news of social media posts negatively impacting the outcome of an injured person’s case.
Surveillance Video Taken By An Insurance Company
Unfortunately, insurance companies have sometimes been known to follow injured people around with cameras and film them performing tasks that the company feels could disprove an injury claim. And there is not much you can do to prevent this kind of surveillance. The best thing that you can do is to not give an insurance company a reason to undertake this kind of surveillance. Never exaggerate the severity of an injury, and always answer questions asked by the insurance company, your doctors, and your personal injury lawyers, as honestly as possible.
Pennsylvania’s Rules on Video Evidence
No one likes to be blindsided by surveillance footage that they didn’t know an insurance company or the opposing side in your case obtained.
Pennsylvania law attempts to make this less likely—as well as keep an injured party from changing testimony to fit a video depiction—by requiring that surveillance video be turned over, but not until after the party who was taped has given a deposition.
As with many aspects of the legal world, using video evidence in personal injury cases is not quite so simple, however. Your personal injury attorney will help you understand all the rules on video evidence related to your rights.
Do You Have a Personal Injury Case in Central PA?
May, May & Zimmerman has the personal injury law experience you need to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, right here in Lancaster.Reach out to us today to discuss the details of your case with a caring, compassionate and experienced personal injury attorney who will review the facts and provide strong guidance. Home or hospital visits can be arranged for those unable to travel, as well.
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