As an injury lawyer, I am constantly litigating car accident cases where the insurance company disputes liability and tries to scare off the injured party. This often leads to the litigation of “swearing contest” cases where there are no eyewitnesses and the jury is left to judge the credibility of the parties without further aid. What is odd about this predicament is that there are increasing numbers of cameras and yet it is very difficult to get the police and DOT to produce the records.
As any Atlanta motorist knows, there are a series of video cameras covering not only all major highways, but increasingly we are seeing video and still cameras at major intersections. Through the years, I have sent Open Records Requests and Subpoenas and the response has been “we don’t record that information.” The lack of access to those videos leads to needless litigation by both sides to the dispute. There are situations where the trucking company was clearly in the wrong but litigated the case because of the chance that a jury would see it their way and when I was defending insurance companies, I handled many a case where the passenger car driver was clearly at fault and the video would have exonerated the tractor trailer driver.
One video source that I use for handling Atlanta Georgia car accident claims is the investigating police officer’s dash camera. Most major police departments have tape and digital based systems that turn on a camera and a microphone as soon as the lights are activated. These images are often priceless in that they allow me to see the scene of the accident minutes afterwards. Lighting conditions, road conditions, the license plate numbers of eyewitnesses that were not listed in the police report. The advantages to securing the tapes are numerous.
Recently I had a Roswell Georgia client that had a tractor trailer turn left across his path. My client’s pickup truck went under the trailer and the roof was ripped off. My client was able to duck and yet he still sustained a major spinal injury that will require surgery. The insurance company for the trucking company tried to deny liability and advised me that the eyewitness would testify that my client was speeding. I called the eyewitness and learned that the insurance company adjuster had called the eyewitness in Alpharetta and had poisoned his opinion. The insurance company told the witness that my client had been injured once ten years earlier and lied about him having a prior spinal problem. By the time my client hired me, the damage had been done and the witness was against us.
I ordered the dash camera from the Georgia State Patrol cruiser that responded to the scene. Most GSP troopers wear a microphone on their uniform so that you can hear the substance of their conversation. In this case, the trooper interviewed that same witness at the scene and he is clearly audible as he tells the officer that the collision was the fault of the tractor-trailer. We were able to use the video record to demonstrate that the witness would appear to have been tampered with by the insurance company if we went to trial. The end result? The truth came out and the tractor trailer driver and his insurance company had to pay for the injury that he caused.
When you hire a lawyer, be sure to ask them what steps they are prepared to take to secure the evidence that you will need. It takes creativity and diligence to get to the truth of the matter and you should not settle for second best.