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Using Surveillance Video to Prove Your Case

Increasingly we find ourselves in stores, public buildings, highways, intersections and other frequently visited places where we are being recorded by video surveillance cameras. Whether for safety or loss prevention purposes, these cameras often run 24/7/365. However, just because the camera is pointing in the right direction does not mean it actually captures an accident or injury.

Just like consumer electronics have transitioned from VCR’s to DVR’s, so have most commercial surveillance systems. The surveillance cameras themselves have also improved dramatically, in some cases being up to 4K in resolution (41x more pixels than VHS). While this quality can be critical in seeing a spill on a floor or reading a license plate number on a fast moving vehicle, it’s only useful if the data is actually retained.

Most DVR systems used commercially over the past decade include only a few days (weeks at most) of storage capacity. This means that unless the cameras owner goes back and saves the desired footage, it is automatically deleted from the system once it reaches capacity. Since the oldest data is deleted to make way for new data, the cycle will vary depending upon the storage capacity of the system. Very few systems, even the state-of-the-art systems with the largest available hard drives, retain the data for more than a month.

In a situation where one of our clients has been injured and the facts surrounding injury may be disputed, surveillance video can be critical in being able to prove fault. Therefore, it is important to immediately put the video camera operator on notice to preserve the video that may have been recorded at the time of the accident. This is often done by way of a certified letter asking to preserve the footage in anticipation of litigation, done as quickly after the accident as practicable.

If a party fails to preserve the video after being put on proper notice of a request to preserve it, they may become subject to a spoliation of evidence claim. These claims can be brought where a party has been asked to preserve a piece of evidence, but fail to do so, either intentionally or through neglect. If you have a situation where the video of your accident could make or break your claim, contact one of our attorneys immediately regarding attempting to have the video properly preserved for use in court.


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