Dash cams, cameras mounted just inside a vehicle’s windshield, record the view out front of the vehicle. Some attach to the windshield, others fasten to the dashboard. If there’s an accident or other event, dash cams can provide unique evidence not available from any other source.
Car accidents happen and unfortunately, witnesses often do not stop, making it difficult to obtain unbiased statements. Dash cams appear in more and more vehicles quietly recording every move, ready to capture what previously amounted to a missing link in accident investigations. Dash cams are legal as long as the driver’s view is not obstructed and the device does not conflict with state law.
Generally speaking recording video from your vehicle breaks no law because there is no expectation of privacy in public places like streets and highways. Many people highly recommend dash cams, as they can protect a motor vehicle operator in a wide variety of circumstances. Some of the most useful reasons to have a dash cam include:
1. Car Accidents Recorded
Determining liability after a car accident can present a challenge, especially when witnesses fail to pull over and provide statements. At fault operators often try to shift the blame hoping to avoid a police citation or increased insurance rates. Surveillance footage provides objective and impartial evidence that can be used to back up your statement to insurance companies and police officers and prevent you from being blamed.
Dash cams can also be used to prove errors found in police reports, to fill in the detail when drivers have a fuzzy memory of an accident and to show the timeline of events before the accident. Dash cam video, in the right circumstances, gives insurance companies and police the evidence they need to understand that you were doing everything right before a car accident.
Even if you were doing everything right before a car accident, insurance companies often attempt to talk down the severity of your car accident injuries especially if they claim it was a low-speed or low-impact accident. Such efforts to minimize the claim may fail though where the dash cam shows the car crash was more than a minor bump.
2. Evidence to Prevent Traffic Citations
Police officers can be mistaken, but courts sometimes tend to rule in favor of a police officer instead of a civilian when they have to believe one person’s word over another. Again, if you were in fact in the right, and you face a wrongful citation and points on your license, dash cam evidence may show that the police officer’s observations or assumptions were incorrect.
As long as the video was legal, and it is in most circumstances, the dash cam should be admissible in court and may be used to determine fault in an accident, or used to defend you against a fraudulent claim or wrongful citation.
3. Protects You Against Insurance Fraud
Increasing popularity of dash cams in the U.S. actually follows massive use of dash cams in Russia. For whatever reason, in Russia, a growing number of people were running in front of vehicles, becoming injured intentionally, then putting in fraudulent insurance claims. Russian drivers reacted by installing dash cams to protect themselves against such bogus claims.
Phony claims unfortunately can and do happen anywhere. Continuous dash cam operation offers protection against those claiming fraudulent injuries. Showing that a claim is phony at the outset can stop a frivolous lawsuit, protect your driving record, keep your insurance rates from increasing and defend against any improper criminal charges in such circumstances.
4. You Become a More Responsible Driver
Having dash cams on vehicles increases safety on the roads because operators realize that their driving is under surveillance. They’ll tend to make better and safer driving decisions. If you were one to weave in and out of traffic and tailgate, you are more aware of your actions because your poor driving is being recorded, and may be held against you someday. Beyond being aware of the recording, you are able to review the footage and critique your driving decisions, to make sure you know what you’re doing wrong, and where you need to improve.
In addition to improving your driving, parents feel more at ease when letting their teenagers use the family vehicle. It is to be hoped that teenagers will make more responsible and cautious driving decisions when they know their parents can review dash cam footage to check in on their behavior behind the wheel. Two- way dash cams are highly recommended for parents so they can ensure that their teen isn’t engaging in distracted driving.
5. Protects Unattended Vehicles
Unfortunately, break-ins, vandalism, and car theft are not uncommon, especially when living in urban areas. However, dash cams can protect your unattended vehicle by recording activity surrounding the vehicle. Advanced dash cams are available which have standby mode, and begin recording only when a motion detector senses something amiss outside the vehicle. They work whether or not the vehicle is running. For this purpose, it’s recommended to have a dash cam that can see inside and outside of the vehicle. For additional security, drivers can also install dash cams in the rear of a vehicle as well so the vehicle’s entire surroundings are monitored.
When potential car thieves spot a dash cam, one would hope they will refrain from committing the crime, knowing their conduct is being recorded.
Dash Cam Legal Issues: Can You Record Conversations?
Although dash cams are legal for video recording, the law is less clear on audio recording. Most people use dash cams to document video. But many dash cams have microphones that record audio inside the vehicle.
Strict privacy laws exist in twelve states across the U.S., including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, requiring consent by all parties being audio recorded. The consent must be given prior to being recorded. The other 38 U.S. states allow recording as long as at least one party being recorded consents. So, if you are driving through a state with wiretapping or “eavesdropping” laws, you need to mute the audio recording function unless the correct parties consent.
Dash Cams The Final Word?
Dash cams can protect those who have been in an accident and those who might fall victim to accident scams. Of course, that assumes the owner or driver makes sure the device is working properly and keeps the dash cam activated at all times. But as with any new technology, there may be other issues and limitations.
If you are in an accident it is always a good idea, once the vehicles and people are secured and safe, to take pictures of the vehicles and the scene. This likely is well outside the dash cams view. Also it does not hurt to identify and talk to those who witnessed the accident, just to make sure. So, like any technology, dash cams provide many useful features. But, they don’t solve all of our problems.
Your best bet after an accident in which you have been injured is to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to put all of the evidence and the facts together. Having an attorney who has successfully represented injured people many times before will maximize your effort.