The Pros and Cons of Using a Dash Cam in Your Vehicle

dash cam attached to vehicleThe main pro of using a dash cam in your vehicle is it can help you record a car accident to prove liability isn’t yours and prove the negligence of another driver. The con is that the dash cam recording doesn’t always help you if the recording proves uses GPS location to prove you were speeding even slightly. See below for more details.

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury lawsuits in America. While many car crashes result from clear negligence on the part of one of the drivers involved, most are far more nebulous or unclear. Unfortunately, some people who have suffered injuries and damages due to the careless actions of others are unable to claim the compensation they are rightfully due because many car accident lawsuits boil down to one person’s word against another’s.

Dashboard video cameras, often simply called “dash cams,” help protect drivers from he-said/she-said situations and provide more clear evidence in car accident lawsuits. When a driver uses a dash cam to constantly record footage while driving, he or she has far more protection from liability in the event of an accident that was not his or her fault. This can be particularly valuable in states with comparative negligence laws. Under comparative negligence laws, a plaintiff can lose a portion of his or her lawsuit award if a judge determines he or she is partially to blame for an accident. Dash cam footage can potentially eliminate this concern and help prove a plaintiff’s innocence.

How Do Dash Cams Work?

If you are interested in using a dash cam, there are many models available. Generally, a dash cam will either mount to the dashboard or the windshield and record footage of the road ahead.

Dash cams record smaller snippets of footage, usually in increments of one to two minutes at a time. The cameras continually record over the oldest clip in order to keep the memory card from filling up as well.

The camera gets power from a cigarette lighter cable or it may be hardwired into the vehicle’s fuse box. Thanks to advances in smartphone technology, there are also apps you can download to turn your smartphone into a dash cam – all you need is a phone mount suitable for your vehicle.

Most basic dash cams are simply a forward-facing camera. More expensive dash cams include features such as forward and rear-facing cameras (to watch the road ahead and inside the vehicle for extra liability protection) and high definition recording. Most dash cams use a standard SD card for storing recorded footage. Even small SD cards can hold several hours of video, and once the memory is full, the camera will continue recording over the oldest footage.

Some dash cams even include G-Force sensors. Whenever the camera senses an unusual shift in momentum, the camera will automatically save recorded footage in a protected file and will not record over it. This can help in situations where you have to manually turn the recording on and off so you don’t accidentally keep the camera rolling and record over vital footage. If you buy a “hotwired” dash cam, it will continue recording even when you park and shut off the car, protecting you from hit-and-run collisions against your parked vehicle.

Additional dash cam features:

  • Multiple lenses for front- and rear-facing coverage
  • More refined sensors for HD video quality
  • Night vision
  • Built in Wi-Fi (for easy file transfer)
  • Parking modes (time-lapse feature for surveillance)

Check out Tech Radar’s break down of dash cams here:

Dash Cams Come With Risks

While dash cams can provide peace of mind and offer legal protection in some situations, it’s important to know the risks involved in using one. If you do “hotwire” your dash cam as previously mentioned, you risk draining your car’s battery if the camera keeps recording without a power limiting device.

If your dash cam doesn’t automatically save footage after a collision, you could lose your footage if you fail to turn off your dash cam before it records over your accident. If you forget to stop the camera, or your injuries prevent you from stopping it in time, you lose your crucial footage.

Before installing a dash cam, make sure it’s actually installed legally. Florida prohibits windshield obstructions, including GPS systems or dash cams that obstruct your vision and direct line of sight while driving.

Dash Cam Footage of a Car Accident & Insurance Companies

truck driving on highwayIf you are involved in an accident and the other party was at fault, you probably hope that dash cam footage can make liability clear-cut. Unfortunately, the truth is a bit more complicated. Having footage of the accident doesn’t guarantee it will be used and it won’t necessarily offer a clear picture of what happened and who is to blame.

Many insurance companies do not even have official policies on whether they will accept dash cam footage, and many will treat it just like photographs of the scene. Whether your dash cam footage will be used may depend on the insurance adjuster and other evidence in your case.

In most cases, dash cam footage is better than nothing, but sometimes it can be extremely useful or even prove your case, especially if it captures clear evidence of the other driver’s fault.

Dash cam footage can also be useful in demonstrating to a jury the extent of your injuries after an accident — especially if the physical damage to your car appears minor. Footage may even be used to prove that you were involved in a hit-and-run accident and potentially find the other driver.

Dash Cam Footage Can Be Used Against You

One of the biggest drawbacks of dash cams is they can sometimes work against you, even if you weren’t technically at fault for an accident. Higher-end dash cams usually include GPS that records your vehicle’s location data and speed. If your dash cam shows you were speeding at the time of the crash, the footage could wind up working against you in a lawsuit.

There was a well-known case of a truck driver in Arizona who crashed his semi-truck into parked emergency vehicles, killing a peace officer. The driver had an inward facing dash cam that was installed to protect him from liability, but it had the opposite effect. The footage was reviewed by investigators who examined the dashcam video of the indcident. According to the investigators, The trucker who crashed his semi into parked emergency vehicles on an Arizona highway was looking at photos of scantily clad women on Facebook at the time of the crash.

An ABC news report explains that video recording of Espinoza behind the wheel of the 18-wheeler at the time of the crash, 5 p.m., was blocked by Espinoza’s wallet covering the dash camera pointed at him. Investoigators believe the 33-year-old trucker intentionally placed his wallet there to block the camera while he was “looking at or manipulating his phone.” See the video below:

If you are involved in an accident, law enforcement may request to review your dash cam footage at any time. Remember that law enforcement can’t force you to show them your dash cam recording without a search warrant or subpoena. They may seize your dash cam if they claim “exigent circumstances” which allows the dash cam to be seized if they believe it contains evidence that could be tampered with, destroyed, or lost if left with you. Even in this case, they can’t view the footage without a search warrant or subpoena.

If you decide to use a dash cam, allow a Florida personal injury attorney at SteinLaw to review the footage and give you a legal opinion to be sure that it will actually work in your favor.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not to invest in a dash cam. Depending on your driving habits, it could provide an extra measure of safety and peace of mind on the road. Take the time to thoroughly research your options and the type of technology you are investing in. Be mindful that your own driving largely determines your safety on the road and you shouldn’t rely on dash cam footage which can as much harm as good in the event of an accident.

If you have been involved in a car accident with dash cam footage to review for a legal case, call SteinLaw today for a free consultation at 877.STEINLAW or fill out a contact form today!

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Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]