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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.