The proliferation of smartphones, dashcams, and inexpensive digital cameras has had a considerable impact on the gathering of digital evidence to use in personal injury cases. These highly portable devices can gather real-time images of the accident as well as the property damage and personal injuries that result. The information that is gathered frequently removes all doubt regarding the factors that caused the crash and the liability of the parties involved.
The Growth of Recording Technology
In the US, there are more than 223 million smartphones in the hands of consumers. That means roughly 66% of the population has the ability to record digital video at the touch of a button. it is further estimated that 118 million households have at least one digital camera. Coupled with this are nearly 30 million security cameras recording an average of 4 billion hours of footage each week.
Moreover, an increasing number of automobiles feature parking and reversing cameras that automatically start recording the moment an impact is expected. As this technology grows and becomes standard on automobiles, it can be coupled with other data collected by onboard computers to establish accident speed, direction, velocity, etc.
Quality Has Improved Significantly
Improvements in technology have had a remarkable impact on video quality. Digital recordings can capture minute details at an accident scene even if the film is recorded at a considerable distance. The higher the quality of the video, the greater its value as evidence. Moreover, video shot from different angles and at different distances can show a clear progression of events by simultaneously capturing the incident and resulting damage from several different angles.
Using Subpoenas to Secure Evidence
It is necessary to subpoena video evidence in the event that a bystander to an accident or the security cameras located in a private residence or business capture an accident on video. Subpoenas can be sought for police dashcams, security cameras, cell phone video, red light cameras, and even nanny cams. Even if individuals offer to hand this information over willingly, it is crucial to go through the formal process of collection, recording of the evidence, and storage. This can add time to the investigation, but it can prevent many challenges to the evidence when it is presented to the judge and jury.
The Rules of Evidence and Digital Recordings
Admitting digital recordings as evidence in a personal injury case requires adhering to the rules of evidence. In addition to showing that the evidence is relevant to supporting the facts of the case, it means the recording must be properly maintained and stored, and that the authenticity of the recording is verified. It also means that policies regarding collection and notifications regarding the evidence were followed at every stage of the proceedings. Failing to strictly adhere to the rules of evidence can have negative consequences on the outcome of the claim.
As Seen on YouTube
Many digital recordings make their way to social media platforms in real time. Within moments of an accident, video can be uploaded to Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. The Federal Rules of Evidence require that such information is authenticated prior to admitting them into evidence.
This can be done by securing affidavits from the social media platform that identify the record creation date, the account that uploaded and maintained the video, and information regarding the servers where the digital copy is preserved.
One thing to note is that the rapid dissemination of digital information can become a factor during jury selection. Potential jurors who have seen the video may be considered prejudiced by the information and subsequently disqualified from serving on the jury.
Recording What Matters
Individuals suffering personal injuries or personal damage should record everything they see at the scene of the accident. This includes any vehicles that were involved, bystanders who could be called as eyewitnesses, damage to property, and any physical injuries. Video evidence can clearly show weather conditions that were present such as rain, snow, and ice. It also establishes light conditions, the presence or absence of signage, etc.
While video can show whether drugs, alcohol or paraphernalia were present at the time of an accident, it cannot definitively establish whether these were factors in causing the accident. However, videos that record this evidence can be used to support toxicology reports collected by law enforcement and eyewitness statements regarding the defendant’s actions and behavior at the time of the incident.
Without question, the increasing prevalence of security cameras in pockets, in homes, on private property, and around businesses means that the camera is almost always watching and very rarely flinches.This proliferation of video recording devices is only going to speed up as cameras make their way into eyeglasses, windshields, and other devices. Chicago personal injury lawyers can help a plaintiff gather, preserve, and present this evidence to support their case.