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Can Dash Cam Footage Help Your Legal Case?

Dash Cam Purchases on the Rise

Dashboard-mounted cameras, commonly referred to as dash cams, are becoming increasingly popular.  Many people feel that an investment of $100 or so is reasonable and that a dash cam will be good protection if they get into an accident and the other party tries to deny fault.  This may be the case when the facts are in your favor, but remember that the opposite is also true.  

Dash cams are small video cameras that mount to a vehicle’s windshield or dashboard.  They typically record what occurs in the front of the vehicle for as long as the car is in gear.  There are more expensive models available that also record audio and include rear-facing video.  Others may include a display on the vehicle’s rearview mirror or stream their footage directly onto the Internet.  

Google reported that in 2018, internet searches for onboard cameras were trending upwards.  Some in-vehicle cameras are purchased to help the driver with side or rear views or to cover blind spots, but many are purchased in anticipation of an accident and proving the driver’s side of the story.  

Watch the YouTube video featuring quality dash cams that won’t break your budget.

What Does a Dash Cam Capture?

Clear dash cam footage of an accident – the moments before and after a collision – especially if there are time and date stamps on the images, are hard to argue with. Imagine you are sideswiped by another vehicle as it passes yours, but that vehicle does not stop and instead continues on down the highway.  Your dash cam could capture images of the make, model, and color of the subject vehicle; perhaps even the license plate.  Such information is obviously important in a hit-and-run incident.  Other details the onboard cameras can catch that may affect an accident claim are:

  • You driving properly at a safe speed and within your own lane.
  • The other driver’s behavior and vehicle movements before and during a collision.
  • The aftermath of an accident – sometimes the other driver may admit fault, apologize, become hostile, or appear impaired by alcohol or drugs.

When the footage shows negative behavior by the other driver, that driver’s insurance company will likely be more willing to accept their insured’s liability (legal fault) for the incident.  This can expedite the insurance claims process as often insurance companies will delay making payments on claims for as long as they can.  

Additionally, if the other driver’s behavior is especially egregious, it may ultimately increase the value of a settlement as the insurance carrier will want to resolve the case before it goes to trial.  This is because if the judge allows the video footage of the other driver’s exceedingly negligent or obnoxious behavior into evidence it could drive up the jury’s verdict.

A Dash Cam Can Also Hurt Your Claim

An onboard camera is totally objective – it will not take sides.  If the footage shows that you caused or contributed to the accident, that fact will affect any insurance claim you make.  The insurance company could issue a subpoena for the video footage and use it against you.  In California, if an accident is proven to be even partially your fault, any insurance payment for your vehicle and injuries will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you.

Some examples of footage that may negatively affect your insurance claim:

  • If you were changing lanes several times before being sideswiped an accident expert could argue that you contributed to the accident by driving erratically.
  • Dash cam audio, if applicable, could catch you yawning or talking about being tired, and an expert could argue that being fatigued affected your reaction time or attention.
  • If you have loud music playing or you are talking on the phone, even hands-free, that could persuade a jury into believing that your inattention played a role in the causation of the accident.

Be aware that the insurance companies will use every opportunity to assign some or all of the blame for an accident to you so that they do not have to pay on behalf of their insured. 

Chico Personal Injury Lawyer

Hello and thank you for reading.  I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury attorney in Chico, California.  If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a negligent driver, I am happy to offer free and friendly advice.  Just call my office at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400 to speak with one of our case managers or injury lawyers.  I have been a tireless legal advocate for injured Chico residents going on 40 years.

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