When Documenting Incidents What you Don't see on Video may be 'Must See TV'

A picture truly is worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to litigation. 

This is even more true when the picture is of nothing at all. That is to say, a picture of the scene of the alleged incident is very helpful when it reveals that there was no hazardous condition or that the condition was blatantly obvious. 

Even when a photograph shows that you or your employee is clearly at fault, it can still be very helpful because it allows you and your insurer to properly evaluate the claim and, if necessary, settle it early on before incurring significant attorney fees defending it. 

Surveillance footage can also be immensely helpful, although sometimes it requires a little thinking outside of the box. While video of the actual incident may not be available, be sure to ask yourself and your employees:

• Is there video of the plaintiff walking around the premises afterward? This could be used to show the plaintiff was walking without any apparent injury after the incident.

• Is there video of other people successfully navigating the alleged hazard? This could be used to show the alleged hazard was open and obvious.

• Is there video of the hazard coming into existence? Or of employees inspecting the area? If it was just shortly before the incident, this could show a lack of notice.

Plaintiffs often erroneously assume that premises possessors are taping their entire facility and storing all the tapes indefinitely. However, in documenting an incident, the possibility of any surveillance footage existing should always be investigated. 

If no video is found to exist, that should also be noted so the plaintiff cannot later complain that you failed to preserve evidence. 

If you have any questions about how to document an incident using photographs or video, please contact your attorney to discuss the premise’s unique needs and situation. 

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