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Surveillance: How Video Can Help (or Harm) Your Personal Injury Case

Feb 18, 2021 | Personal Injury

In today’s world, video cameras are everywhere. They’re in stores, on the street, on buses, in subway stations, and in just about every public place you can think of. It’s also very easy for people to film anything that goes on with their smartphones — which could be good or bad for your personal injury case.  

When Can Video Footage Help Your Lawsuit?

It’s difficult to dispute video evidence in a personal injury case. After all, it’s an objective play-by-play of precisely what happened at the time of the accident and in the moments leading up to it. Rather than go back and forth with “he said, she said” arguments, a video can be powerful evidence to substantiate a claim before a jury — and maximize the value of your case.

Whether you were in a car crash, a slip or trip and fall, or another type of accident, a good personal injury lawyer will obtain any surveillance footage from the location of the occurrence and carefully assess it. Importantly, video from the accident scene can identify hazards and establish the other party’s negligence. An experienced attorney will also know how to use video evidence to refute any claims made by the defense that your actions contributed to the accident.   

When Can Surveillance Harm Your Case?

As much as surveillance footage may help your case, it can also harm it. A video doesn’t lie and if one exists, the truth will come out sooner or later — it’s best to be honest with your attorney about the accident from the outset so they know how to strategize. However, even if the footage shows that you were partly to blame for the accident, you may still be entitled to compensation.

Since New York is a comparative negligence state, any amount of recovery you’re entitled will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were found to be 20 percent responsible for your accident, your recovery be reduced by that 20 percent and you would be entitled to 80 percent of the recovery. The more responsible you are, the less recovery you get.

Critically, where surveillance can really hurt your case is when you least expect it. From the start of your personal injury case until a verdict is rendered, you should always be on guard that the insurance company might be observing you when you go out into public.

At any stage of a personal injury lawsuit, the insurance company may send out investigators to film you doing something you claimed your injuries prevented you from doing to avoid paying out on your claim.

For instance, if you said your back pain stopped you from going to the gym, don’t be surprised if an investigator hired by the defense follows you there. If you contend that your injuries stopped you from lifting things, the insurance company may try to obtain footage of you carrying grocery bags from your car into your house.   

Understanding How Social Media Can Destroy Your Case

Apart from surveillance obtained by others, accident victims need to be just as careful not to allow incriminating videos or photos of themselves be posted on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or any other social media site. These types of posts are the surest way to lose your personal injury case.

Even though it might sound unfair, it’s perfectly legal for insurance companies to scroll through your social media profiles and retrieve photos or videos in an effort to destroy your credibility and undermine your claim. Not to mention, since these photos are public and readily available, it’s very easy for the defense to obtain them.  

So, if you’re claiming pain and suffering but photos are posted on Facebook of you participating in snorkeling, sky diving, rock climbing, and skiing adventures — your case is essentially over. To avoid the possibility that the insurance company could take your social media photos out of context and use them against you, it’s generally a good idea to deactivate your accounts while your case is ongoing.

Contact an Experienced New York City Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured in an accident, it’s crucial to work with a personal injury attorney who can thoroughly investigate your claim and obtain any available photos and video footage. Strategically using surveillance evidence to obtain the best possible outcome in each case, We regularly secure verdicts and settlements in the millions for our clients.

The Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown LLP is a personal injury law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of accident victims to ensure they get the maximum compensation they deserve for their injuries. Located in Manhattan, we have been handling personal injury cases throughout New York City since 1937. Call to schedule a free consultation at (212) 425-1999 today.

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