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Accident Reconstruction - CCTV Footage is Useful but Not Always Decisive

CCTV cameras are nowadays ubiquitous in public places and can greatly ease the task of accident reconstruction experts. As a case involving a young man who was struck by a train showed, however, imperfectly positioned cameras or gaps in footage can still leave room for disputes that require judicial resolution.

The man had been out with friends celebrating the end of his exams when he was picked up by a CCTV camera on a railway station platform. He made his way onto the track, where a train hit him, inflicting catastrophic injury. A personal injury claim was launched on his behalf against the station's operator, alleging negligence and breaches of the Occupiers Liability Act 1984.

Very unfortunately, however, the available CCTV footage stopped short of revealing how he managed to negotiate a security gate at the end of the platform. It was argued on his behalf that he must have at least partially opened the gate before stepping through it onto the track. On that basis, it was asserted that the accident would not have occurred had the gate been locked or alarmed.

Ruling on the matter, the High Court noted that he was too badly injured to give his own account of how he made his way onto the wrong side of the gate. The CCTV footage showed him looking down the platform, apparently to check that he was unobserved by railway staff. He was also shown glancing upwards at the camera more than once, indicating that he was aware he was being filmed.

The Court found, on the balance of probabilities, that he had sidestepped around the gate rather than opening it. Such a manoeuvre would have been effortless for such a fit and agile young man. There was therefore no causal link between the accident and the absence of a lock or alarm on the gate. In the light of the Court's ruling on that issue, his claim was discontinued.

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