Sometime ago I blogged about how the omnipresence of cell phones with cameras has been a game-changer for many Central New York and Syracuse accident victims. The evidence of the at-fault person’s or corporation’s negligence can be “snapped” right at the scene with the cell phone camera. This is important because often the evidence disappears within hours, for example, where you slip and fall on an unplowed, unsalted walkway in a Central New York winter.
Another game-changer for Syracuse and Central New York personal injury cases (and for such cases everywhere) is the omnipresence of surveillance videos. Now almost all major stores, including supermarkets, have surveillance cameras filming in almost every nook and cranny.
How does this help New York personal injury attorneys prove liability in personal injury lawsuits? Here’s an example. A woman slips and falls in the produce section of a major Syracuse supermarket. Turns out she slipped on a piece of tomato.
Under New York slip-and-fall law, the store is only liable to the injured customer if the tomato had been there for a significant period of time so that the store employees should have noticed it on their regular inspections of the produce department. This is because a store cannot be held liable for the carelessness of a customer dropping a tomato just a minute before the next customer slipped and fell on it. The store can normally be liable only if it noticed the tomato on the floor and did nothing about it, or if it failed to inspect the produce department on a regular basis to look for fallen fruit and vegetables. In other words, New York slip-and-fall law gives the store a “grace period” to find and clean dangerous spills, and vegetable or fruit droppings, before the store can be held legally responsible for the slip-and-fall accident.
In the old days, this was often hard to prove —- how do you prove how long a piece of tomato you slipped on was on the floor?
Enter the age of surveillance videos. Now when an injured client, say a Syracuse client, calls to report she has been seriously injured in a slip-and-fall in a Syracuse grocery store, the Syracuse slip-and-fall lawyer writes the store immediately and demands that it preserve all surveillance videos of the produce department for the day in question. (And by the way, the store had better comply with the request, or a judge at the eventual trial might sanction the store, for example, by instructing the jury that it can infer the store had something to hide when it destroyed the videos). When the Syracuse personal injury lawyer eventually views the preserved surveillance video, it doesn’t show when the tomato fell to the floor, but it clearly shows that for the 3 hours before the accident, no store employees inspected the produce area for fallen fruit and vegetables. It also clearly shows that no customers had reached into the tomato basket for an hour and a half before the slip-and-fall. Perfect proof? No, but pretty darn good. It goes a long way toward proving that the tomato had to have been on the floor for at least an hour and a half — well beyond the “grace period” — and that the store employees were negligent in failing to inspect the area for fallen fruit and vegetables.
So as a dedicated Syracuse New York slip-and-fall lawyer, I want to personally thank all our local stores for installing surveillance cameras. Sure, they did it to catch us customers stealing, but they unwittingly also sometimes catch themselves failing to protect us from avoidable accidents.