National Legal Network of Lawyers

Can I Get Video From a Highway Traffic Camera?

Can I Get Video From a Highway Traffic Camera?

Car accidents are, unfortunately, a daily occurrence on United States  roadways. As our population continues to grow and the metropolitan areas where we live continue to expand, having a reliable vehicle in good working order has become more essential than ever. Given that some people dedicate several hours of their day to commuting, public transportation and getting around on foot are not viable options for the average person. Despite the fact that motor vehicles are a commodity, not every driver is as conscientious as they should be.

Almost as ubiquitous as cars themselves, vehicle accidents are another common sight on America’s roadways, with tens of thousands of collisions taking place every day across the country. When accidents occur, vehicle occupants are often injured or killed, and the vehicles they spend so much of their hard-earned money on are damaged, sometimes beyond repair. Not only that, but many people end up with debilitating injuries or, worse, lose their lives.

A car accident accident can be devastating. Accidents that were caused by another driver’s negligence only add insult to injury and can result in lengthy court battles for those seeking compensation. The primary hurdle with car accident lawsuits is proving that someone else was liable because the responsible driver almost never freely admits fault. In fact, it is far more common for them to try to shift blame for the accident onto the victim in an effort to avoid liability.

One source of evidence that can be effectively used to counteract the at-fault driver’s denial of liability is any traffic camera footage from the highway where your accident took place. Securing this evidence is incredibly important but not always easy to do, so it’s best to seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after being injured in a car wreck.

Are There Different Kinds of Traffic Cameras?

Yes, besides surveillance cameras that record constantly and automatic sensor cameras that capture images of license plates, there are two main types of traffic cameras on highways. They are:

  • Enforcement Cameras: Enforcement cameras, such as speed cameras and red light cameras, are designed to detect unsafe driving. They catch drivers committing traffic violations and supply evidence that can be used to issue citations.
  • Non-Enforcement Cameras: Non-enforcement cameras generally track real-time road conditions and are not typically used to enforce traffic laws or issue citations. These cameras include traffic sensor cameras that capture the flow of traffic and Automated Number Plate Recognition Cameras that take photos of license plates rather than toll tags in HOV lanes and on bridges.

Camera Jurisdiction and Location

Acquiring red-light and traffic camera footage can be a vital step in ensuring the success of your case against the at-fault driver. This is because, as stated earlier, one of the biggest obstacles in a car accident case is proving that the other driver was the one who caused the accident through negligence despite any attempts they make to circumvent liability for their carelessness. The last thing you want as a car accident victim is to have to cover your own damages, such as vehicle repairs, lost wages and hospital bills, out of pocket. And when it wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t have to.

You can increase your chances of reaching a fair settlement or award by securing evidence that clearly shows that the accident was not your fault. This is especially important if you live in one of the four states that adhere to the doctrine of pure contributory negligence. Although not every highway is equipped with some type of traffic camera, more and more of them seem to appear every year, making it increasingly easier to locate specific footage after an accident.

When it is available, video footage from a traffic camera can be quite helpful to both personal injury attorneys and law enforcement. While not always needed to access the footage, it is possible that you might need a subpoena from the court before whichever government agency is currently storing the footage will hand it over to you. To obtain a subpoena, a document that compels the named party to be in court on a specific day or, in this case, supply evidence in a claim, the court clerk must issue a written order under the judge’s name.

If you think there is traffic camera footage that could help your car accident claim, we strongly urge you to contact us for free legal advice. After your complimentary consultation, if you decide to work with an attorney, they will be able to guide you through the best plan of action and help you obtain the traffic camera footage you need.

Even if the recorded footage can be obtained without court involvement, you should expect the process to be complicated. That being said, if the footage will help you win your case, it is worth the trouble. Once you have the footage, it will corroborate your claim and prove categorically that the other driver was at fault. Keep in mind, though, that the footage will get deleted not long after the accident occurs, so the sooner you seek an attorney to help you, the more likely it is you will be able to get the footage you are seeking.

How Can I Access Traffic Camera Videos?

In order to be able to access traffic footage, you first need to identify the camera’s location, which shouldn’t be a problem provided you remember where the accident took place. If, for some reason, you are unable to recall the precise location, you can always refer to your copy of the police crash report. If you don’t have a copy of your crash report, you can reach out to the Department of Transportation or the local police department to get a copy.

The ideal course of action would be to document the exact spot where the collision took place and take photos of landmarks that you can reference should it be necessary. Once you have pinpointed the location of the camera or cameras near the scene of your accident, you will be able to determine the correct jurisdiction. Unusual though it may seem, not all law enforcement officers operate within the entirety of a city or state. Different law enforcement agencies will have jurisdiction over various areas.

Insofar as video footage from a traffic camera is concerned, the appropriate jurisdiction may not even lie within the local police department if the cameras are operated by a private firm or the Department of Transportation, depending on the county and state. Determining the appropriate jurisdiction is crucial because only then can you identify the correct department or agency to contact for the footage. A traffic camera’s jurisdiction is linked directly to its location. For instance, if the camera is located in San Diego, California, the Los Angeles Police Department will not be able to get a copy without assistance from the San Diego Police, which is responsible for and oversees its own jurisdiction.

Once you have pinpointed the agency responsible for the camera, your next step will be to speak with its representatives by getting the contact details of the private firm, Department of Transportation, or police department that controls the camera.

How Do I Go About Requesting Traffic Camera Footage?

Depending on the policies of the agency responsible for storing the footage, you can generally request access to traffic camera footage by either calling the agency’s official phone number, checking The Department of Transportation website for the appropriate state, or reaching out via e-mail.

In some cases, you might need to download a PDF, fill it out, and upload or e-mail it as part of your formal request.  You can choose to deal with the governing agency directly or have a proxy do so on your behalf; usually the personal injury attorney who is representing you.

Is the Process Easier if an Attorney Requests the Footage?

Although, in most cases, an attorney is not required for you to be granted access to traffic camera footage, that doesn’t mean that trying to handle the situation on your own is a good idea. Generally speaking, requests for traffic camera footage are much more successful when they are made by a qualified car accident attorney because they are familiar with the process, they know who to contact, and if you hit a snag, they can easily request a subpoena from the appropriate court.

That is one of many reasons why it is strongly recommended that you seek the guidance of an experienced car accident attorney when it comes to obtaining camera footage pertaining to your car accident. An attorney can get the footage before it is deleted and also help you build the strongest case possible to ensure that you get the financial compensation you need and deserve.

Requesting accident footage can become tricky since you will have to supply whatever details the agency needs to be able to narrow down where the footage might be located. At a minimum, this will include the time, date, and street names that can be cross-referenced with their video archives. Certain agencies may require you to sign a privacy release statement before you can see any footage, which is usually just a few sentences promising that you won’t use the videos for any purpose outside of your injury claim.

In addition to this, some agencies charge a nominal fee to cover the effort and time it takes to find the appropriate video footage as well as the resources they used to make you a copy. For this reason, you need to inquire about any potential costs before you make a formal request.

Unfortunately, making a request like this does not entail simply meeting the required conditions and sitting back until the organization delivers. Agencies such as these receive numerous requests every day, meaning some fall through the cracks. It is always a smart idea to follow up on your request periodically with a courteous phone call and/or e-mail inquiring about the status. If you decide to just wait and do nothing to follow up, there is likely going to be a considerable delay in receiving the requested footage if you receive it at all.

Ensure You Received the Correct Footage

Even though requesting exact traffic footage may sound easy, it requires a fair amount of paperwork, patience, and diligence. Even for those who follow the steps to the letter, there are still no assurances that they will get the traffic camera footage they requested. Dissimilar to speed cameras and intersection cameras that record a vehicle’s license plate when it detects a speeding driver or a driver running a red light, traffic cameras record video in real-time. This constant recording amounts to hundreds of hours of footage per week per camera in any given location. If you live in a big city, that is several million hours of video footage that has to be uploaded and saved via a central server.

Realistically, this means that the only way an agency employee will be able to locate the specific footage you requested is if you furnish them with an accurate time and location of the crash. Even when you supply them with all the necessary information, the process is one that is time-consuming, cumbersome, and not immune to errors. In other words, it is not uncommon for employees to make mistakes and send the requester the incorrect footage. With this in mind, once you receive the footage you should review it immediately to make sure that it matches the time, date, and location of your accident. If you receive the wrong video, a correction request will have to be made which is basically to starting the process all over again.

Bear in mind that, although reviewing the footage for the appropriate clip is certain to be a protracted and somewhat annoying task, you do not have an indefinite amount of time to do so. Regardless of who oversees the camera that recorded your car accident, video footage is only held for a limited time which varies by agency, county, and state.

Are There Any Alternatives to Traffic Camera Footage?

Traffic camera video could potentially make a major difference in the outcome of your claim or case, particularly if the video shows something that supports or conflicts with your retelling of the accident. Having a video that proves the other driver was liable can be a significant piece of supporting evidence that enables you to achieve a successful resolution to your injury claim. Acquiring CCTV footage, however, is not an option for all collision victims since cameras are not installed at every intersection or on every street.

If your car crash happened on a major road, such as an interstate, or in a major city, it will almost certainly be on camera. Smaller roadways, such as back roads and residential streets, are less monitored and are not typically outfitted with recording equipment. If your accident took place near a business with security cameras, you might get lucky but by and large, you may be forced to seek out alternative evidence should traffic camera footage be unavailable. Some other strong forms of evidence include:

Dashcam Video

Compelling point-of-view video evidence can come in the form of a dashcam video. If you, the other person involved in your accident, or a passing motorist have a dashcam affixed to their vehicle, it can be used to support your claims. Most drivers do not have dashcams on their vehicles, so this type of evidence is not particularly common.

Damage to Your Vehicle

Having your vehicle evaluated could yield a professional opinion that corroborates your story. A seasoned mechanic or accident reconstructionist might be able to determine whether you were hit by another driver or caused the collision yourself.

Witness Testimony

Many car accidents happen in places where there are other drivers and even pedestrians. If this is the case, you can obtain witness statements regarding exactly how the accident took place. When the responding police officer arrives at the scene, they can interview any witnesses and provide formal statements. This information will then be included in their crash report, giving your claim additional support.

Cellphone Video

Another way you may be able to obtain evidence is if any bystanders who saw what happened used their cell phones to take videos or pictures of the accident or the moments immediately after. This footage can validate your claim.

Any of these alternatives will make it easier for a skilled car accident attorney to prove your version of events regardless of whether there is traffic camera footage of your wreck. The more relevant evidence you can collect, the smoother your personal injury claim will go.

If you have a legal matter with which you are seeking assistance, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help connect you with the right personal injury attorney for your specific circumstances and help you schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your car accident case.

1-800-ATTORNEY® - Copyright © Lawyer Holdings, LLC
For licensing information: Contact us