Many people throughout the country purchase dashboard-mounted cameras, colloquially known as “dash cams,” to record their daily driving routine. These dash cams are becoming more common and impact your car accident case.
In most cases, individuals use dash cams to prove they are involved in a car accident or a police traffic stop.
Because of this, drivers may want to know:
- Is it legal to use a dash cam?
- Can dash cam recordings be admitted as evidence for personal injury lawsuits?
The answer to the first question is relatively straightforward: you can use a dash cam in every state. However, Missouri and North Carolina have no restrictions when it comes to dash cams. Other states allow dash cams as long as it doesn’t qualify as a windshield obstruction. If your dash cam is recording audio, though, you need to make sure what the wiretapping laws are in your state. Some states require the consent of everyone being recorded while other states do not require consent. Recording police and other public servants in the course of their duties may be an exception to this wiretap law.
The second question is much more complicated, primarily because it is the subject of evolving legal interpretations. Cases in which a dash cam video presents “clear and convincing evidence” of a specific fact should allow the dash cam footage to be admitted.
Suppose you have been hurt in a car accident and are unsure of whether your dash cam video will provide evidence or not in your specific case. In that case, you can contact a car accident lawyer today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Call (800) 431-6841 or contact us online to schedule your free case review now.
How Does a Dash Cam Work?
A “dash cam,” short for “dashboard-mounted video camera,” is just what it sounds like. Dash cams are a device that can be attached to a spot on your vehicle to record video footage, often mixed with audio. Most dash cams are forward-facing, looking out the front windshield, and they may also be attached to look out the rear window when permitted by state law.
Dash cams record whenever they are on. A dash cam can be manually activated each time the driver wants to use it or automatically “wake up” when the vehicle is on. Sometimes they can be triggered to start even when the car is parked, potentially catching a hit-and-run in the act while you get groceries or attend a sports game.
Because dash cams have a limited storage capacity — usually enough for around 6 hours of footage — they will overwrite older footage unless it is manually saved and stored by the owner.
That’s all there is to it! Like most cameras, you “point and shoot,” except you don’t even have to point since the camera always faces forward.
Anyone who wants to use a dash cam should be aware of relevant state laws, though. They should also test the footage to see if the camera’s view is unobstructed and if the video quality is enough to be clear and decipherable.
Can You Use Dash Cam Footage as Evidence in a Car Accident Case?
Since dash cams are legal in all 50 states, they just have different rules about audio and visual obstruction, they can be used as evidence in a car accident case. The rules about placing fault for an accident vary in all states. In some car accidents, the fault is very clear of who caused the accidents, however in cases when it’s unclear dash cam footage can help establish who was at fault. Dash cam footage being used as evidence can be a double-edged sword as well. Dash cam footage, depending on how long it was recorded before the accident occurred, it could show that you may have caused the accident.
It is also important to note that in order for dash cam footage needs to be treated like any photo or video evidence, not altered. The dash cam footage needs to be in its original form, no edits, so it can be deemed reliable when used in a case.
When is Dash Cam Footage Considered Useful?
Dash cam footage can show driver behaviors that affirm a narrative that a driver was at-fault and acting negligently. For instance, if an injury victim alleges that a car was recklessly driving before it merged into their lane and collided with them, footage of the car swerving moments before the accident can be beneficial.
Likewise, if a hit-and-run driver claims to be misidentified, footage clearly shows their vehicle and license plate number immediately after a front-end collision. The dash cam video can potentially provide strong evidence of fault.
When is Dash Cam Footage the Least Helpful?
On the other hand, there are situations where dash cam footage might not support your car accident claim. If the camera didn’t capture an obvious action or the full scope of the accident scene, it might not clearly and convincingly prove the facts that the injury victim hoped it would. Similarly, if the footage is grainy or couldn’t adequately capture the scene at night, then it may not be helpful to the case.
One situation where dash cam footage can do more harm than good is if it proves that an injured victim somehow contributed to their accident. If the video shows that they hit the other driver first, contrary to their claim’s narrative, the victim doesn’t want to volunteer that footage (nor should they attempt to make false claims, but that’s another matter).
Even footage of events leading up to an accident can be fair game, so consider the full scope of what the footage shows. If moments before the accident you were speeding and nearly missing cars, this can prove that you were driving recklessly and contributing to the circumstances of the accident, even if the video doesn’t disprove anything material in the claim.
Once all sides are aware that the footage exists, they can review it in discovery and potentially admit it as evidence against the dash cam owner, so be cautious and fully aware of what the video shows before attempting to use it as evidence.
How Do I Know If My Dash Cam Footage Is Admissible in My Car Accident Injury Case?
Many factors can affect whether dash cam footage should be used in a car accident injury claim and how much value it can provide the victim.
Suppose you have questions about a specific injury-causing accident for which you want to file a claim or lawsuit. In that case, it’s generally best to discuss the details with an experienced car accident lawyer immediately. An attorney can assist you with collecting evidence, evaluating its usefulness to your case, and using it to effectively back up your argument that someone else was at fault for your accident and your injuries.
You can schedule a free, no-obligation case review with a personal injury attorney today when you call (800) 431-6841 or contact us online using our convenient form.