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Dashcams are Legal, But Are They Helpful?

dashcam footage

Dashcams are legal in all 50 states, but there are regulations that might affect how you use them

A dashcam can provide useful evidence following a car accident, but use it with caution. Sometimes, a recording that you think is in your favor could be used against you. Here’s what you should know about how and when to use a dashcam recording after a collision.
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A dashboard-mounted camera, or “dashcam,” might be able to act as your “witness” if it captures the events leading up to—or during—a car accident.

A dashcam is a video camera that’s attached to the inside of a vehicle that continuously records what’s happening either outside or inside the vehicle.

This might work in your favor after an accident, or it might not.

In all 50 states, it is legal to install a dashcam in your vehicle.

However, it’s important to note that some states vary with how you can use the recorded information because it’s a form of surveillance.

Some states have wiretapping and other privacy laws that could prevent dashcam footage from being used in a legal matter. Most people use dashcams to record what’s happening outside the car, but there are some dashcams that also record audio of what happens inside the car, and that could include conversations between the driver and passengers.

Enjuris tip:In most states, only 1 party needs to consent to be recorded. So, if the person doing the recording is aware that they are being recorded (which they are), then the requirement is satisfied even if the other people being recorded don’t know.

In other states, everyone being recorded needs to consent. The all-party consent states are:

California
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Illinois

Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Montana
Nevada

New Hampshire
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Vermont
Washington

Your state’s video consent laws could be important in a personal injury lawsuit.

If the dashcam is recording what’s being said inside the car, it could provide evidence of the driver and passengers’ observations and mindset immediately preceding, during, and immediately following a crash.

If a judge or jury needs to determine fault for a car accident, this could be significant.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

A vehicle ahead is swerving dangerously. The passenger is recorded 5 minutes before the accident speaking to the driver saying, “Watch out for that blue sedan! He’s all over the place, so you should keep your distance.”

This does show that there was a dangerous driver ahead who was likely to cause an accident, but it also shows that the driver of the vehicle that was recorded was aware of the situation and could have taken steps to avoid an accident. In a state where a plaintiff’s liability can affect the amount of damages, this can result in the plaintiff’s being unable to claim damages.
The driver and passenger are talking. The driver says to the passenger, “I just heard my phone buzz. Can you hand it to me so I can see who texted?” Moments later, an accident happens.

This exchange could demonstrate that the driver was texting while driving, and that can be important for determining the cause of the accident.

The question of whether the car’s occupants consented to be recorded could be important with respect to whether the recording is admissible as evidence in court.

The issue of privacy for passengers being recorded is particularly important for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services. Uber and Lyft defer to relevant state laws with respect to passenger recordings.

Know your state law for mounting a dashcam

Dashcams are legal in every state, but there are regulations about how you can mount one.

In Nevada, Kentucky, Maryland and New York, you may use a suction cup to mount a dashcam on your windshield. There are 12 states (Idaho, California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Arkansas, Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, and Connecticut) that have specific mounting rules — like that the dashcam may not occupy more than a 7-square-inch area on the passenger side or a 5-inch area on the driver’s side.

The remaining states do not permit a dashcam to be mounted on the windshield.

Dashcam footage as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit

When you’re in a car accident, you can receive damages based on who was at fault. The specific rules related to fault vary by state; some states have a system of no-fault insurance where you can collect an insurance payment regardless of who caused the accident.

There are instances when insurance doesn’t cover the full extent of your damages and you need to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover damages (costs) associated with the accident.

Enjuris tip:How damages are provided based on the plaintiff’s degree of fault depends on your state. Learn how your state handles fault.

Sometimes, it’s clear who caused the accident. In other instances, it could be less obvious. If that happens, the insurance companies and lawyers are going to need to determine exactly how the accident happened.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to using dashcam footage as evidence:

Advantage to a dashcam Disadvantages to a dashcam
A dashcam can provide proof that the accident happened. If the accident was the other driver’s fault, the video footage might show that and can be valuable evidence. You might not be able to use dashcam footage recorded on private property or restricted areas. On a public road, that shouldn’t be an issue.

It’s also possible that your dashcam footage could show that you caused or contributed to the accident and it can hurt your case.

Remember this:

If you’re in a state where both parties’ liability affects the outcome of a claim, there could be evidence within a dashcam’s footage that can reduce your settlement or verdict amount.

For instance, the dashcam might show that another driver made an illegal left turn when they hit you. But it might also have captured audio recording that your child was crying in the backseat. The defendant’s attorney might try to argue that you were distracted by your child and therefore didn’t react quickly or correctly to avoid the collision.

Dashcam footage will be treated like any other photo or video evidence.

It needs to be reliable, meaning it was unedited or altered in any way. It is also subjective. There could be differences of opinion, even among experts, about what the video demonstrates.

Enjuris tip:If you’re involved in an accident or lawfully stopped by a police officer, they can request to view your dashcam recording. You may choose to show it to them, or you may choose not to. But if the incident results in a legal claim, it could be subject to a search warrant or subpoena. If the police believe your camera has recorded a crime and a search warrant or subpoena is issued, you will have no choice but to provide the footage.

Similarly, if your camera records someone committing a crime, neither the police nor anyone else may require you to delete the footage. You should consult a lawyer in this instance to find out your legal rights and responsibilities.

Should you get a dashcam?

The decision is yours.

But if you’re in an accident, you should know that there might be parts of the recording that can work against you, even if you think it is mostly in your favor.

All in all, a dashcam can be used as valuable evidence following an accident. It’s similar to when a store has surveillance video that captures a customer’s slip and fall, for instance.

After any accident when liability is in question, or if you’re not being offered the settlement you think you deserve, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will review the evidence and maximize your damage amount by minimizing your liability. It’s also best not to share dashcam footage with any insurance company, law enforcement, or the other parties until it’s been reviewed by your own lawyer.

If you need a personal injury lawyer, you can use the Enjuris law firm directory to find an attorney near you who can assist with your claim.

 

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