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Written by: The Benton Law Firm Last Updated : January 24, 2023

Requesting Surveillance Footage of Your Accident

Gathering evidence after an accident is one of the most critical elements for establishing liability. There is a variety of evidence that an experienced attorney will collect, including surveillance footage. Surveillance footage of the incident that caused your injury can provide indisputable proof of who is at fault for the injury and the losses resulting from the injury.

Collecting surveillance footage can be complex because you must identify who owns the video, stop the footage from being destroyed, and get a copy of the footage. In addition, depending on who owns the footage, there may not be laws requiring them to maintain the footage. No one is required to provide surveillance footage without a court order unless it is public information. So sometimes, getting footage of a car crash can be challenging.

How Long Do Security Cameras Keep Footage?

How long security footage is kept depends on who owns or has custody of the camera and security footage. For example, no laws require businesses and private citizens to keep their security footage so they can maintain it for as little or as long as they want. As a result, if you want security footage from a business or private citizen, you should have an attorney start the request process immediately to increase your odds that the footage is obtainable.

If the footage is being requested from a government entity, there are specific retention requirements that are dependent on state and local law.

Texas

  • Surveillance footage of buildings, facilities, vehicles, or other state property: According to the retention requirements of Texas, surveillance videos owned by a government entity are required to be maintained for as long as they are valuable. This means they may be deleted if the government is unaware they are valuable. However, once they are notified of their connection with an investigation or litigation, they cannot be deleted until the case is resolved.
  • Law enforcement footage: In Texas, the retention requirement for video obtained through body cameras is 90 days minimum and then until the footage is no longer valuable.

Washington State

  • Surveillance footage of buildings, facilities, vehicles, or other state property: Under Washington’s general retention record requirement, security monitoring footage must be retained for 30 days or until it is determined that no security incident has occurred, whichever is sooner. If an incident is identified, the footage must be kept until the matter is resolved.
  • Dashcam and body camera footage obtained by police: In Washington, the police are required to keep footage captured on a dashcam or body camera for 90 days unless an incident is reported, then they are required to keep the footage until the matter is resolved and the appeal process has been exhausted.

Because of the varying retention policies for government entities and the lack of retention requirements for businesses and citizens, it is essential to get a request out as soon as possible.

How to Obtain Surveillance Footage

No law requires someone to give you their security footage without a court order, but you should still ask. Sometimes, a business or private party will be willing to provide the requested footage if asked nicely. If a business or private citizen denies access to the footage, you may have to request a court to issue a subpoena duces tecum requiring them to provide the footage. A subpoena duces tecum is a court order requiring a party to produce documents or tangible evidence that could be used at a hearing or trial.

If the footage is a public record, getting the footage may be as simple as filling out the required request forms or sending the correct government entity a letter requesting it. However, the way government entities disseminate public information depends on what the footage shows and whether it contains confidential information. For example, the attorney general must create a public information request form in Texas. In Washington, you can make public records requests online, via email, over the phone, or by mailing a letter to the Office of the Governor.

Contact The Benton Law Firm Today for a Consultation

If you were injured and you believe the accident was caught on camera, contact an attorney immediately so that they can request the preservation and distribution of the accident footage. The Dallas car accident attorneys of The Benton Law Firm are experienced personal injury attorneys who understand how to get the evidence needed to make your case. Contact us today by calling us at (214) 777-7777 or filling out an online form to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.

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