How to obtain CCTV footage after an accident

CCTV camera

Accidents happen and we’ve been sharing great tips on how to cycle safely in London and what to do if you are ever in an accident. However, we haven’t previously covered how to get hold of CCTV if you are in an accident.

In the UK there is one CCTV camera for every 11 people, according to some estimates. It’s something that these days we mostly tune out, but the next time you are walking around London look up and the chances are there will be one within sight.

This can be helpful if you are ever in an accident and require evidence. However, there are some important things to be aware of.

How to get access to CCTV footage following an accident

You are legally allowed to access CCTV footage you appear on. There is a 30 day cut-off and a nominal charge of £10 for every request. These requests need to be submitted to the owners of the camera – so petrol stations, shops as well as Tfl, highways agency etc. The request should be submitted in writing (signed for delivery might be helpful), with date, time and location. You will also probably need to call to chase the written request.

Previous accounts testing access to CCTV footage have shown mixed to poor results. Therefore, we decided to consult the experts.

We reached out to CAMS who are specialists in cycling accidents claims and are partnered with London Cyclist to help our readers.

CAMS told us that their experience has shown similar hit and miss results.

Despite it being a legal right, you are still reliant on owners to get the footage together. This doesn’t seem like something that should be hard or one would be unwilling to do, but that is often the case. It creates work for an individual in what is probably already a busy, not well paid job. As there is a time cut off, many people will push you around until the footage is not available any more.

Varying quality of CCTV footage

In the table below you can see the cutoff time for some of the TFL cameras. Road cameras do not even fully record unless an event is reported. Therefore, if you have an accident, or even a theft, which is covered by cameras, you need to be on the ball and persistent to get hold of it.

Overview of expiry times for footage, taken from tfl.gov.uk

Table of footage times

CCTV footage is almost always nowhere near the quality you would see on a TV series such as CSI (sorry to shatter the illusion!). The grainy footage is often not very useful and can have many problems:

  • A camera may only record 2 frames per second with the end result being you don’t see the split second the accident occurred
  • Quality is designed to degrade over time in order to save space on the storage devices

CAMS advised us that you are better off getting two or more independent witnesses. This will likely be the most reliable and useful information you can gather for your case. Taking photos is also very helpful, if you are in a state to do so.

Legal machinations

If you have been in a serious accident for which you are certain legal action is required, you would be best to appoint a specialist advocate to work on your behalf. People like CAMS do this for a living. They know the ins and outs of getting evidence, and then they can handle the legal aspect further down the line.

This is especially important if you have been injured. You will need time to heal and the stress of hunting down footage and witnesses and insurance is not going to help. You employ a lawyer to buy a house or do anything else involving legal jargon, so you should consider doing the same for this too.

Of equal import it making sure you report the incident to the police to get a crime reference number. This should happen even if they do not end up at the scene if you intend to take things further.

More important than CCTV

You want to make sure you record as much information about the scene as possible. This includes driver details including vehicle registration, name, contact info and insurance information.

If you are not in a state to record any of these things, it would be worth calling the emergency services, be that the police or an ambulance.

You need to take careful note of the specifics of the crash as soon after it happens as possible. Accurate information from you can help significantly, and writing it all down, including time, date and precise location, will make retelling easier. These are the things that can get confused in the coming weeks and months so its best to have a record.

If you witness a crash, then make sure you stay to provide your details to the police and offer them directly to the person involved in the accident too (if possible).

In short

Yes, you can get CCTV footage. It is a legal right. Sadly, it is not that simple. If you have been involved in an accident, it is probably worth seeking profession advice on how to proceed. If you are hoping that CCTV footage will help you catch a thief, then you need to act soon and push your case.

As mentioned earlier, London Cyclist is partnered with CAMS. If you’ve been in an accident and you believe you may have a claim, then speak to the experts by filling in the form below.

Fill out the claims form to get advice on your accident from CAMS.

CCTV camera footage via Charbel Akhras on Flickr

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

5 Responses to How to obtain CCTV footage after an accident

  1. nilling 09/10/2015 at 10:20 am #

    Maybe just me but I baulk at the word ‘accident’ and prefer the more neutral terms ‘collision’ or ‘crash’.

    “Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.” – BRAKE

  2. Phil 09/10/2015 at 2:43 pm #

    ‘Accident’ assumes that nobody is at fault, which is almost never the case. I have been knocked off my bike three times, and every time it was the driver’s fault for not looking properly when pulling out from a side road.

    • H Johnson 20/01/2016 at 11:12 am #

      No, “accident” merely implies/means that it was not intentional. Somebody can be found at fault for causing an accident. If it was deliberate, it was more likely an (attempted) assault or worse

  3. Junior 13/10/2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Tower Hamlets response to a request for footage following a car door incident knocking me to the ground.

    “I am afraid not, we cannot allow members of the public etc. to view CCTV footage due to the data protection act for other people who would be on the footage. Which is why we have to have your insurance company or solicitors contact us”

    On my persistence I was told,

    “I have reviewed the footage and am 100% that I would refuse any subject access request regarding this Road Traffic Collision. As the Data Controller for the CCTV I am the person responsible for deciding on whether we release the video footage or not. The person on the bike is not clearly identifiable as the camera is on wide angle which means it is zoomed out so far you can see both pavements and the shops either side. The camera is not high definition which means it can not be zoomed in to identify the person on the bike or even the registration number of the car.

    Should you wish to obtain the footage correctly under the correct legislation ( Data Protection Act 1998 – Section 35 (2) (a) for the purpose of, or in connection with, any legal proceedings (including prospective legal proceedings). Please ask your solicitor or claims company to email cctv@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

    However having viewed the footage , whoever the cyclist is could be construed as the person responsible for the accident. The car was parked with its hazards on and although Brick Lane has no kerbs legally anything to the side of the yellow lines is pavement. At the time of undertaking the parked car the bike rider was on the edge of the pavement. the passenger of the vehicle has in theory opened the door out onto the pavement and would not be expecting cycle to come up the outside.”

    Also if police are involved in an incident you may not ever get to see the CCTV footage – it’s at the discretion of the investigating officer.

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