Can I use Dashcam Footage as Evidence in My California Auto Accident Case?
In today's environment, cameras are ubiquitous. People have cameras in all of their mobile devices, businesses use surveillance video, and homeowners rely on security video. In the past, dashcam video recorders were primarily used by police officers. However, an increasing number of motorists are purchasing and installing dashcams in their vehicles to help to keep them safe and record what happens if they are involved in motor vehicle accidents. The increased prevalence and use of dashcams has led to people wondering whether they can use the footage in auto accident cases. The attorneys at the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we have received about using dashcam video in a car accident claim.How Can Using a Dashcam Benefit Me?
Using a dashcam can offer several benefits in car accident claims. If you are involved in a collision with another driver, each driver's account of what happened can be vastly different. Witnesses can also misremember details or leave important things out. When you have a dashcam, it can provide a first-hand recording of the accident and what occurred. The video can also allow you to revisit what happened and to look for details that you might have otherwise missed. It can also be useful when witness statements conflict with each other.
Having a dashcam can also help to protect you from insurance fraud. In some cases, a motorist will cause an accident on purpose and then try to blame the victim to try to get a payout from the insurance company. Having a dashcam can help to prove that the other driver caused the accident and help you avoid being the victim of insurance fraud.Is it Legal to Install a Dashcam in My Car?
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 26708, it is legal for you to install a dashcam in your vehicle. However, you must comply with the law's placement restrictions. Dashcams must be installed outside of the area where an airbag might deploy. When you install your dashcam, it must be placed according to the following restrictions:
- Within a seven-inch square in the right-hand lower corner of the windshield furthest from the driver
- Within a five-inch square in the left-hand lower corner on the driver's side
- Within a five-inch square in the central upper area of the windshield
If your dashcam includes audio recording features, you should post a visible notice for your passengers that they are being recorded. If a passenger does not want to be recorded, you must turn off the dashcam's audio recording feature.What Features Should I Look for in a Dashcam?
Dashcams range in price and features. While all dashcams record video, some do not record sound. Some dashcams also have features like GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity, night vision, and dual-camera recording.
Your first consideration for choosing a dashcam will be affordability. You should choose a dashcam that offers at least 1080p video recording, audio recording, and night vision. Other features that can be useful include the following:
- Loop recording to automatically record over old video
- G-Force sensors that detect collisions and save the video so it won't be recorded over
- 32GB of memory or more
- Heat-resistance to withstand the California heat
- Motion detectors to start recording when your vehicle is parked
- Lane departure to alert you when your vehicle swerves over the line
- Wide viewing angle from 170 to 180 degrees
- Dual-camera recording to record both in front and back
- GPS to store location and speed information
Even though dashcams are increasingly popular, many insurance companies have not fully embraced dashcam video in auto accident claims. Insurance companies generally consider video evidence to be similar to photographs and do not give dashcam footage additional weight. Insurance companies often do not mention dashcams in their policies and argue against their use in court. How dashcam footage might be treated by an insurance company will often depend on the adjuster who is assigned to the claim.Is Dashcam Footage Admissible in Court?
In car accident claims in which fault is disputed, it can be difficult to prove the factors that contributed to the crash and exactly what happened. Police officers who respond to the scene try to reconstruct what happened by considering the visible damage, witness statements, weather conditions, lighting, and skid marks. Insurance companies frequently send investigators to the accident scene to also try to reconstruct what happened when the fault is in dispute.
Dashcam footage can provide clear evidence of what happened in the moments leading up to the collision, during the crash, and afterward. California courts also generally deem dashcam footage to be admissible in car accident cases.How Useful is Dashcam Footage in an Accident Claim?
The usefulness of your dashcam footage in a car accident claim will depend on the quality of the footage and its angle. For example, if you have a low-end dashcam, it might not provide a wide enough angle or picture quality to provide much useful information. However, a good dashcam can provide enough information to help you prove the at-fault driver's liability. A good dashcam might help you to gather evidence about the other driver's estimated speed, the road and weather conditions, how soon brakes were applied, and the angle of the collision. It can also show other relevant details such as whether the other motorist ran a red light or stop sign before colliding into your vehicle and allow you to record statements made by witnesses.
Dashcam footage can be useful in situations when the at-fault driver attempts to deny certain actions, including texting while driving or driving while impaired. Some of the common types of accidents in which a dashcam can be useful are described below.Accidents Involving a Red Light
Some drivers who run red lights and crash into other vehicles claim that the light was yellow when it actually was red. Others try to claim that the motorist they struck ran a red light. Witnesses might not remember which driver had the right of way because of the sudden shock of witnessing a collision. If you have a dashcam, you can easily resolve whether you or the other driver had a red light or ran a stop sign.Unsafe Lane Change Leading to a Sideswipe Collision
Another common accident scenario in which liability might be in dispute is a sideswipe accident caused by a driver making an unsafe lane change. The at-fault driver might try to argue that he or she used his or her turn signal and that you sped up to prevent him or her from entering the lane in front of you. With a dashcam, you can use the footage to show that the other driver didn't signal and that you did not speed up to prevent his or her vehicle from entering your lane.Accidents When One Driver Turns Left
Left-turn accidents are another common scenario in which disputes frequently arise. Drivers might argue that they turned left on green or yellow then their light was red. Other situations might involve a driver turning left on a green arrow while the other driver runs his or her red light. Having dashcam footage can quickly resolve this type of dispute.Accidents With Hit-And-Run Drivers
If you have a good dashcam, you might be able to record important details when a driver collides with your vehicle and then flees. Dashcam footage might reveal the person who was driving and record the make, model, and license plate of the fleeing vehicle. This type of evidence can be helpful for law enforcement to track down, identify, and charge a hit-and-run driver while also allowing you to hold him or her accountable for his or her actions.Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Dashcam footage can be important evidence in a traffic accident. If you were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else, your attorney might be able to use your dashcam footage to determine liability and convince the insurance company to offer a fair settlement. Contact an attorney at the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC to learn more about your potential case and how to protect your rights.