Surveillance Cameras Help Reconstruct Auto Accidents

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August 06, 2016
Edward Smith

Surveillance Cameras Help Reconstruct Auto Accidents

Using Surveillance Cameras to Reconstruct Car Accidents

When the victim of a car accident sues the party at fault for negligence, their legal team may try to reconstruct the car accident for the benefit of the jury’s understanding. Traditional sources of information for these reconstructions include analysis of the damage to the vehicles, collision simulation software, or data from the black box of one of the vehicles. These days, surveillance cameras are another source of evidence for reconstructing the accident. As more and more businesses and municipalities install surveillance cameras for theft-prevention (like this security camera footage that caught a Sacramento burglar ripping off the offices of a local non-profit, from CBS 13 Sacramento) and law enforcement purposes (like Sacramento’s new downtown surveillance camera installations in the lead-up to the new arena opening, as reported by The Sacramento Bee), it is increasingly likely that one of these cameras captured footage of some aspect of a particular car accident, especially in a densely-populated area.

Importance of Acting Fast to Secure Surveillance Footage

Accident investigators may find cameras near the site of an accident if they search thoroughly, but not all of them will be useful. Some cameras will provide no footage at all because they are inactive decoys for theft deterrence. Because most surveillance cameras have limited storage space for footage, they will usually begin to overwrite old footage after a certain period of time. This means that time is of the essence in retrieving footage of an accident. Also, video quality varies widely between different cameras and recording systems, with many different recording frame rates and resolutions.

Environmental Factors Can Obscure Surveillance Footage

Even when well-positioned cameras are available with high-quality video playback, other factors can prevent the footage from providing useful evidence. Depending on the angle of the sun and the position of the camera, the sun’s rays may white out a particular part of the image during certain times of the day. Sometimes dust or debris accumulate around the camera lens, which can block key segments of the image from appearing clearly. If the accident occurred at night, the video may only show objects that capture lightning in the area of the accident. If the streetlights are not bright enough or if they only illuminate a portion of the scene in question, then the video may be of limited use. In order to capture a broader area, many surveillance cameras use a wide-angle lens. This kind of lense can cause distortion in the video such that straight lines appear curved and object further from the focal center of the image appear further away. Certain software can correct these distortions, but this may require knowledge of the camera’s technical specifications.

Video Surveillance Can Prove the Facts of a Car Accident

Once the investigator has video footage of reasonable quality, a legal team can use it to prove various facts about the collision. The footage can prove the color of a traffic light at the time a vehicle passes into an intersection. It can also show whether or not a particular vehicle’s headlamps were on before the accident occurred. The video can authenticate various aspects of eyewitness accounts of events. Perhaps most importantly, the video may help to reconstruct an accurate vehicle speed. If the investigator determined the frame rate of the surveillance camera, a lawyer can instruct the jury about the amount of time that elapses between the frames of video footage. If the investigator also determined the distance between different reference points in the footage, then they can calculate the speed at which the vehicle was traveling at the time of the collision.

Sacramento Auto Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento. If you’ve been seriously injured in an auto, motorcycle, truck, or bicycle accident, please call me today at (916) 921-6400 free, friendly advice.

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