If the old adage "A picture tells a thousand words" sums up the value of a photograph then a good video of an accident can be priceless. It is said that Britain is one of the most "watched" countries in the world because of the prevalence of surveillance cameras everywhere. The starting point of many criminal investigations is CCTV footage on the street or in premises where the incident occurred, but how useful is photographic or film evidence in civil proceedings?
Vehicle Mounted Cameras
The availability of low cost digital mounted cameras like GoPro have in many cases provided an invaluable record of road traffic accidents, particularly ones involving cyclists and motor cyclists. Nowadays far fewer road traffic accidents have detailed plans and reports prepared by the police and camera evidence can be of great importance.
Value of film
Two examples illustrate the point:
1. A glass worker in a factory operating a crane using hand controls at ground level is moving a significant weight of plate glass above his head. The glass crashes to the ground seriously injuring him. He claims the suspension cable snapped. He produces a divided cable. An engineering specialist several years later thinks the cable looks like it was cut rather than that it snapped, but it is the worker's evidence that it snapped. The case pre-dated digital cameras and there is no possible CCTV footage but eventually, over 3 years after the accident the archived files of the health and safety manager (long departed) are checked before the civil action goes to a hearing in court. During the check an old Polaroid Instamatic camera picture is found which shows the scene of the smashed plate glass on the factory floor. It shows the winch cable, which is undivided and coiled on the floor. The cable had not snapped and the worker's explanation for the accident cannot be correct. A case worth £300,000 is now worth nothing because of one picture.
2. A cyclist is knocked off his bicycle and seriously injured by a passing vehicle. The moment of the collision is caught on video by a motorist behind him using a digital camera device. The video shows the vehicle veer over to the cyclist's side of the road. Liability appears to be clear.
In many civil cases deciding who was to blame may come down to a simple disputed fact: did the crane fail because the cable snapped? Was the car on the wrong side of the road at the point of collision? All efforts should be made to recover any photographic or video evidence of an accident scene as soon as possible as a key part of any investigation into what happened. Good personal injury lawyers know the value of a picture. Cases can take several years to come to court; memories may fade and witnesses may be fallible. A picture, however does not lie.