By Andrew Wilson
Most personal injury lawyers will know what a useful tool Google Maps Street View is for getting an ‘on the ground’ photographic view of a particular location. Indeed, so ubiquitous has its use become that one could be for forgiven for forgetting it has only been with us in the UK since 2009. Street View images can, for example, be of great assistance when trying to assess a case involving a road traffic accident at a road junction. Sightlines, distances and road markings are immediately apparent and the strengths or weaknesses of a particular party’s position instantly highlighted.
However, not quite so well known is that since April 2014 ‘historical’ Street View images have become available online. When available for a particular street these will show the different images taken when the Google cameras visited the location on different occasions, sometimes going back as far as 2007. For some very busy streets, images are taken as frequently as every year. Where such historical images are available simply click on the clock icon in the top left-hand corner of the Street View image, and then use the slider that appears to select images taken on various different dates.
These images can sometimes be useful in highway maintenance claims. It is common in such cases for a defendant Highway Authority to rely upon a system of inspection in order to make out the statutory defence under section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 that they had taken such care as in all the circumstances was reasonable to ensure the highway was safe. Whilst the ‘zoomed-in’ quality of the images is not always sufficient to demonstrate the presence or absence of a particular defect, on occasion it does. Where the historical Street View images are of sufficient quality, they can illustrate whether a defect was or was not present on a certain date before the accident, and thus can be used to refute or corroborate an argument that such inspections were being conducted competently.
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 For those of you who’ve never used it before, simply to go to https://www.google.co.uk/maps. Zoom in on your desired street. Then drag and drop the yellow stick-man icon from the bottom right hand corner of the browser window onto the street itself. The Street View image should then be displayed. You can then navigate the view up and down the street, or zoom in or out of the image, using your mouse and the on-screen arrows and buttons.
 However, please be aware that there may be copyright issues involved if you wish to use them in a case.