In a world where everyone with a smartphone is an amateur videographer and there are security cameras on nearly every storefront and house porch, chances are pretty good that someone recorded your auto accident. If you hired an attorney, he or she would be responsible for getting that material. However, if you're suing for damages in small claims court or representing yourself, then that responsibility will fall to you. Here are a few tips for gathering video evidence of your car crash.
From Other People
At the time the accident occurs, look at the surrounding crowd for people who may have their phones out to record the event or for houses that have exterior security cameras if the accident occurred in a residential area. Don't be afraid to approach these people and ask them to forward you a copy of the video they recorded or pictures they captured. Alternatively, you can point these people out to the police on the scene, who may secure the video for you.
It's human nature to want to help others, so most people will be happy to either send you the material or exchange contact information with you so you can follow up with them at another time. If they refuse or leave the scene before you can ask, wait a few days and do a search on popular video sharing websites. With so much focus on sharing everything on the Internet, there's a good chance you'll find the video there.
From Area Businesses
If the accident occurred in a business area and you notice some of the stores or offices have exterior cameras, talk to the manager or owner of the company about getting the footage it caught of the accident. Again, most people are only too happy to help. However, be aware that many companies store recording equipment in locked areas or offsite to prevent tampering, so it may take time to get the material.
Another issue you may run into is the company may only keep footage for a certain number of days (e.g. only two weeks) before deleting it. So you want to start gathering video evidence as soon as you're able.
From the Government
Many cities and states have their own close circuit television (CCTV) systems that let them record what's happening in the area. The most famous is probably the traffic cameras operated by the Department of Transportation that catch people who speed or run red lights. However, some police agencies and the federal government also employ CCTV and other video monitoring programs.
Since these agencies are funded by public money, the public (you) have the right to secure a copy of a particular recording. Typically this involves submitting a request to the agency that owns the camera. For instance, you can get a copy of recordings by the New Jersey DOT by submitting a video request or emailing the agency.
Like businesses, though, many times these agencies only keep the recordings for a certain period of time, and it may take a while to get them, so the sooner you act the better.
In a worst case scenario, you can file a subpoena with the court to compel the person, business, or government agency to turn over video evidence. However, this is typically done by an attorney, because the legalities of filing a subpoena are a little complex. Therefore, you should hire a lawyer to do this for you if you reach a situation where this is required. Contact a law office like Kaston & Aberle for more information.