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How To Obtain Traffic Camera Video of Your California Car Accident

A camera records heavy traffic on a California highway.

When you've been injured in a car accident, gathering evidence is critical.

Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be a confusing and stressful time, but having evidence of the crash can be crucial in determining fault and pursuing compensation. One valuable source of evidence can be traffic camera footage, which provides an objective record of the events leading up to and during the accident.

In California, specific laws govern the availability and use of traffic camera footage. This footage can be obtained through a request under the California Public Records Act, or through other means, such as contacting the local Department of Transportation.

Steps to obtain traffic camera video in California

The first and most obvious step in obtaining traffic camera footage of a car accident in California is determining if the accident occurred in a monitored area. Traffic cameras are typically located in busy intersections, highway exits and entrances, and other areas with high traffic flow. If the accident occurred in one of these areas, there's a good chance that footage of the incident exists. If video of your crash does exist, here's what you'll need to do next:

  • Request video footage from the local law enforcement agency. If a police officer responded to the scene of the accident, they may have access to the footage and can provide it to you upon request. If the police department does not have the footage, they may be able to direct you to the agency that does.
  • If a local law enforcement agency won't provide the footage, you can make a written request under the California Public Records Act. This act requires government agencies to disclose public records, including traffic camera footage, upon request. The request should include specific information about the accident, such as the date, time, location, and your contact information.
  • Another option is to contact the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for footage. Caltrans is responsible for many of the state's highways and intersections and may have access to footage of the accident.
  • Hire an attorney to obtain the footage. An attorney can help navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and provide guidance on the best course of action. They can also represent you in court and help you recover compensation for damages.

In addition to the steps outlined above, it's also possible to obtain video footage of your car accident from private individuals or businesses in the vicinity. By contacting these individuals or businesses directly, you may be able to obtain footage that captures key details of the accident.

Likewise, dashcam footage from the vehicles involved in the crash or recorded by vehicles driving by or near the accident can be valuable. Finally, cellphone video footage of the accident recorded by someone involved in the crash or a bystander might be available.

However, obtaining this footage is not always straightforward. In some cases, individuals may be cooperative and willing to provide the footage without any resistance. In other cases, you may encounter obstacles that are difficult to overcome without the help of an experienced car accident attorney.

How long before traffic camera video is overwritten?

Accidents at or near red lights or speed cameras are usually documented by a nearby surveillance system. But there is no consistent policy regarding how long these types of traffic cameras will save their footage.

For instance, in some California cities, footage from red light cameras may be kept for one year, while other cities may keep their recordings for as little as two weeks. If you hire a car accident lawyer, they can immediately ask for access to relevant video footage and request that it be preserved instead of erased or destroyed.

A car accident attorney can find the facts that matter to your case.

Without the proper evidence, it can be difficult for an injured party to prove their case against the at-fault driver and be fairly compensated for their losses. For example, the at-fault driver may deny wrongdoing or blame the victim.

When pursuing an injury claim, there are a number of legal requirements to establish who is at fault. If there is video footage of the crash, this can help significantly with the investigation. In many cases, this will show the true events and help the court or insurance company determine who is to blame. Additionally, videos of the crash can be used to corroborate witness testimony and help establish how the accident unfolded.

At Clancy & Diaz, LLP, we know how to investigate accidents, gather and preserve evidence, and build strong cases. If you or a loved one was injured in a Bay Area car accident, contact us today to review your legal rights and options. There is no obligation, and we offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay no fees unless we win your case. To learn more about how we can help you, schedule your free case evaluation.

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