The eternal question for any investigator is always “Who done it?” Through literature and movies, you can always see the protagonist investigator trying to solve a crime or establish how something happened. In reality, we have a cheat tool. It’s known as video evidence. Assuming you can authenticate the footage, there is no better way to answer the age-old question. This article focuses on the benefits of motor vehicle accident site video recovery from nonparties as it is an indispensable tool that should be incorporated into any plaintiff lawyer’s repertoire.
The same investigation benefits that will be described below can be used for a large number of different types of case including trip and falls, slip and falls, dog bites, construction accidents etc. A site investigation usually takes place after you have secured the initial intake documents and have decided to represent the client. During the intake, full and accurate details to the facts of the accident needs to be ascertained. The site investigation will include looking for videos from cameras that may have captured the accident or incident. These videos can be private cameras like a ring doorbell or municipal cameras at intersections used to enforce codes or monitor traffic.
We all understand that in a personal injury civil trial, the burden of proof relies on the client and the attorney so hiring a good private investigator or investigation company can make or break a case. Video is a powerful tool in many personal injury cases. These days, video footage has never been more accessible or important to any lawyer representing their clients. They state there are three sides to every story – client, defendant and truth. Therefore, any video located and secured from nearby establishments could back up and solidify your client’s claim.
A cyclist was killed in a bike lane when a big rig truck turned right in front of the cyclist, instead of yielding to the cyclist first, as vehicles turning right across bike lines are required to do.
The MVA report said it was the cyclist’s fault and they also claimed to have canvassed for video footage with no success. Most police agencies investigating a wrongful death usually canvass for video footage a part of their initial or reconstruction investigation. But, even if they say they have, one cannot count on them as most detectives are overworked and unable to devote the time to be thorough in a non-criminal matter.
The law firm representing the cyclist was retained the next day and immediately hired a private investigator to conduct a site investigation. The private investigator canvassed the area and noticed security cameras at a car repair shop across the street from the site. When asked the shop’s employees, they said that the police had not asked about the cameras. The private investigator was able to persuade the employees to allow them to review, locate and secure a copy of the video.
This video was instrumental in the cyclist’s family securing an enormous verdict against the trucking company. Either way, the decision must be made at the intake interview or soon thereafter because the evidence is fleeting.
The benefits of accident site video recovery are numerous and can be crucial in various situations. Here are some key benefits:
- Evidence Collection: Video footage from accident sites provides clear evidence that can be used in legal proceedings, insurance claims, and police investigations. It helps in determining the cause and liability of the accident.
- Accurate Recall: Human memory can be unreliable, especially in traumatic situations like accidents. Video recovery ensures an accurate and unbiased account of the events.
- Reconstruction Analysis: By reviewing accident site videos, reconstruction experts could analyze the video for contributing causes i.e., speed, failure to yield, unsafe lane change etc. in order to testify if the case went to trial.
- Training and Education: Videos of real-life accidents can serve as powerful training tools for new attorneys, investigators, etc. to explain the dynamics and physics of motor vehicle accidents.
- Trial: The video can draw jurors into your client’s experience and sympathize toward your client due to an motor vehicle experience they themselves may have experienced.
- Insurance Verification: The law firm can use this video evidence to verify claims and determine the extent of damage or injury, which can expedite the claim process. It can also spur otherwise reluctant adjusters to settle for amounts greater than what they would normally otherwise.
- Client Support: For those involved in accidents, video footage can provide closure as well as support relative to psychological recovery by understanding and reviewing the events of the accident.
It’s important to note that while video recovery has its benefits, it should be handled sensitively and ethically, respecting the privacy and dignity of those involved. A good private investigator or investigation company can make or break a case. Obtaining video evidence should become a regular part of any attorney or law firm’s repertoire.
Thomas Keaveney is Vice President of Field Operations for Satellite Investigations, New York’s premier Plaintiff only investigation firm. Mr. Keaveney’s background includes a lengthy career with the New York State Police doing accident investigations and reconstruction. He has conducted thousands of accident site investigations since joining the Satellite team.