As dashboard camera (“dash cam”) technology becomes an insurance staple for drivers in other countries like Russia and the United Kingdom, American drivers are leaning toward the same practice to prove fault in car accidents.
Before you consider buying a dash cam, you should first know if it’s legal to use in your state. You should also weight the benefits and consequences of using dash cam accident footage in the event of an insurance or legal dispute. Dash cams are not a fool-proof means of proving that you’re a good or innocent driver.
Is using a dash cam legal?
While dash cams are not illegal, some states either ban or restrict the use of electronic devices and how they are mounted in a vehicle. These state laws concern both driver operation and privacy issues surrounding the use of electronic devices in vehicles.
Most dash cam models are designed to be mounted to the windshield using a suction cup. Some dash cams come packaged with an adhesive plastic disk that you can stick to your vehicle’s dash board and use as a mounting place for the suction mount. This is an excellent option to stay legal in any state when using a dash cam. As a rule of thumb, though, don’t dashboard-mount your camera where it can block the driver’s view of the road.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia ban windshield-mounted devices like dash cams and GPS trackers. Seven of the other 23 states that allow windshield-mounted devices have specific restrictions on where you can place your dash cam.
|STATES THAT ALLOW WINDSHIELD-MOUNTED DEVICES|
|New Hampshire||New York||North Carolina||Ohio*|
*These states enforce restrictions on where you can place your mounted device on your windshield. Every state has different requirements, so click on the state names to see their laws where you can find the specific restrictions. In general, these states require that you mount your device so it doesn’t block the driver’s view through the window while driving. Most of these states restrict the placement of these devices to the lower corners of the windshield.
Dash cams can help fight scammers
Automotive insurance scams can become complicated for victimized drivers who have nothing to prove their innocence in a scam accident except for their word.
In San Diego, CA, a mother became involved in an accident insurance scam when another driver allegedly attempted to make her rear-end his vehicle near a stop sign. The other driver had harassed the mother about hitting his car even though she hadn’t before she left the scene.
She learned later that the driver had filed a complaint with the police against her alleging that she had damaged his bumper. The other car did have damage even though hers didn’t. Lucky for her, she had a dash cam that captured the incident and proved her innocence. The alleged scammer subsequently dropped the issue.
Issues with using dash cam footage
There is no guarantee that it will help you with legal or insurance disputes when you get into an accident. Here are several factors that determine whether dash cam footage is admissible as evidence:
- Where the footage is captured.
- Did the accident occur on public, private, or government property? Does capturing audio in this situation violate your state’s wiretap laws? Consider state privacy laws. Did you get permission to capture video of another person?
- The footage captured enough proof of fault in the accident.
- If you were rear-ended by another vehicle and your camera didn’t capture the collision or other pertinent details, you may have a hard time convincing an insurer or the court of who was really at fault.
- The court or insurer allows the footage as sufficient proof of fault.
- There’s a lack of definitive laws on using dash cam footage as evidence. Hence, a judge or an insurer may not allow dash cam footage for any number of reasons.
In some cases, it may not be wise to use a dash cam to record your driving activities. Remember, dash cam footage can be a double-edged blade: it could also be used to incriminate you. Courts and insurers can legally request footage that may have captured a driver’s inattentiveness or reckless habits. This could hurt dash cam users more than it could help them.
Understanding your rights and state laws
Dash cam technology can be as valuable as an “eye-witness” to your accident, but the laws surrounding that value continue to evolve with respect to state laws.
If you find yourself in an accident, it is recommended that you speak with a motor vehicle accident attorney to ensure your rights are protected and if any dash cam video will, in fact, help your claim. An attorney experienced in local and state laws can best inform you about your rights in regards to using dash cam footage as evidence. An attorney is also a powerful ally to have in court when presenting your footage as evidence.