In the model organism Escherichia coli , helix distorting lesions are recognized by the UvrAB damage surveillance complex in the global genomic nucleotide excision repair pathway (GGR). Alternately, during transcription-coupled repair (TCR), UvrA is recruited to Mfd at sites of RNA polymerases stalled or paused by lesions. Ultimately, damage recognition is mediated by UvrA, culminating in the loading of the damage verification enzyme UvrB. We set out to characterize the differences in the kinetics of interactions of UvrA with Mfd and UvrB. We followed functional, fluorescently tagged UvrA molecules in live cells and measured their residence times in TCR-deficient or wild-type cells. We demonstrate that the lifetimes of UvrA in Mfd-dependent or Mfd-independent interactions in the absence of exogenous DNA damage are comparable in live cells, and are governed by UvrB. Upon UV irradiation, we found that the lifetimes of UvrA strongly depended on, and matched those of Mfd. Here, we illustrate a non-perturbative, imaging-based approach to quantify the kinetic signatures of damage recognition enzymes participating in multiple pathways in cells.