Surveillance cameras are everywhere today. You might think that your traffic accident would appear on one of them, maybe the red-light camera above the signal or one of the many city cameras monitoring traffic flow. If your collision was captured on video, how can you access it, and could it be used to bolster your injury claim? Find out more from our New York personal injury firm below.
What Type of Camera Footage Is Available?
Despite the number of cameras on the streets and in stores around the city, not all of them will have the kind of footage you need. Different cameras produce different types of images. Some cameras are not intended to help find accidents. They are often installed to provide security or catch red-light running motorists, but the footage could be useful if a collision is recorded.
There are approximately 750 speed camera systems throughout New York City, primarily in school zones. The main purpose of these cameras is to catch drivers who run red lights at intersections near school crossings, so the cameras are aimed to get a clear shot of license plates and the vehicle. NYCstreetsblog.org confirmed they are evenly spaced throughout the city on high-risk streets in all five boroughs.
NYC Department of Transportation Cameras
The roadway cameras used by the DOT to monitor traffic conditions and provide accident updates can be accessed live at https://webcams.nyctmc.org/. Unfortunately, these cameras are only monitored in real-time and do not record any footage.
Private Business Cameras
Security footage from private cameras could potentially capture a collision, depending on where they were facing and their field of view. The value of this footage will depend on:
- Camera direction – Business cameras are there to protect the business, so they’re focused on the property. Any footage from the street is going to be out of focus and far away.
- Camera quality – Even the best companies cut costs when they can. Not every business uses high-end surveillance equipment. Cameras provide varying quality of footage depending on lighting, weather, and even cleanliness.
- Recording media – It may be difficult to believe, but some places are still using videotape to record their surveillance cameras, recording over the tape every week or month. Videotape degrades after two or three uses, and police have found mom & pop gas stations using the same tape for two or three years.
The other challenge with private cameras is storage. Even in the best cases, most businesses do not keep their surveillance recordings for more than a week or a month. There is no legal requirement that they keep such videos for any specific time, and companies that do keep them maintain them for internal use only, such as shoplifting deterrent. If you delay your request for a video, it could already be gone.
How To Access Surveillance Footage in New York
If you are requesting footage from a private business, your first step should be simply to ask for it. You may encounter resistance or suspicion from the owner or manager, but in most cases, there is no harm in asking if they have the footage or if you can get a copy. You might consider doing this if the business is small or likely to record over the video before anyone can call them back.
If you are trying to get video copies from a business, you need to move quickly. Even if the business is cooperative, the standard practice is to record over videos eventually. You should speak to a legal professional and have an accident attorney send a request to the business’s legal department or security manager
A private company is not legally required to give you a copy of their video, so your attorney is more likely to know how to phrase the request. A letter from a law firm sometimes gets the attention of even the most disinterested CEO.
To get footage from city cameras, you will need to send a request directly to the New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT). They prefer you send a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request through the OpenRecords Portal electronically. Their website details exactly what you need to provide and the fee per document page returned.
Various websites indicate that the FOIL request must be filed very soon after the accident because DOT records are only kept for a short period. This is another area where contacting an attorney right away can improve your chances of getting the records you need.
Contact Auto Accident Attorneys, Finz & Finz, P.C.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident due to another person’s negligence or carelessness, contact the New York car accident lawyers at Finz & Finz at (855) TOP-FIRM. We’ll be ready to discuss the specifics of your accident, and we’ll be ready to thoroughly investigate your crash to identify any video evidence that might support your claim. Our consultations are 100% free and confidential, so reach out to us by phone or online today.