In today’s world it is difficult to find a time when you are not being filmed. Surveillance cameras are being used everywhere from retail stores to SEPTA buses to highly trafficked intersections. The increased availability of surveillance footage has certainly had a significant impact on our practice here at Stark & Stark. In many cases, we are able to obtain surveillance footage of the incident that caused our client’s injuries. Obviously, this footage can prove to be extremely helpful in obtaining a successful resolution to a case.
One of the many things that clients need to understand about surveillance footage is that it is usually destroyed quite often. For instance, many retail locations have their surveillance cameras on a loop system and footage may be lost as quickly as 24-hours after it is filmed. For this reason, it is extremely important to notify a store manager of an injury immediately after it occurs. Once the store is notified of your injury, they have a responsibility to preserve the surveillance footage that captures the incident that caused your injury. After notifying the store of your injury, it is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to allow the lawyer to confirm that this footage has been preserved.
In the event that the store fails to preserve the footage after you have notified them of your injury and your lawyer has sent a letter confirming that the footage has been preserved, the store may face sanctions for failing to preserve this evidence. One such sanction is what is referred to as an “adverse inference.” This simply means that, at the time of trial, the jury will be instructed that the store failed to preserve the surveillance footage despite being notified to do so. Based upon this fact, the jury is entitled to determine that the surveillance footage would have been beneficial to the plaintiff’s case. Often times the threat of this “adverse inference” will serve to advance settlement negotiations and allow your lawyer to obtain a favorable settlement prior to trial.