While auto insurance companies do not offer discounts for drivers with dash cameras, it’s still wise to consider dash cams for your personal or business vehicles. They’re a small investment, generally $100-$300, and can help win a case against a negligent driver in the case of a car accident, and prevent your insurance premiums from rising.
A majority of car accident cases settle outside of the court of law through auto insurance companies. In the event of an accident, insurance agencies can use dash camera footage to help determine who is at fault. Video footage is particularly helpful if the police are not able to respond to the scene, and makes a stronger case than still images and witness testimonies, as these are produced after an accident has occurred.
If your case does make its way into the courtroom, having supporting evidence gives you an advantage with the judge and jury, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in fines, lawsuits and even jail time.
But be advised, dash cameras give an objective view of the incident. Footage can be used against both defendant and plaintiff.
What Evidence Can a Dash Camera Produce?
Dash cameras produce many pieces of valuable evidence, including:
- Exterior Video footage. The dash cam footage can be viewed in real-time, or slowed down and reviewed frame by frame. This gives auto insurance adjusters, judges, jurors, police investigators and expert witnesses a clear view of the incident as it happened. Some camera systems are capable of providing additional angles like side, rear and interior shots. If the camera continues to film after the accident it can even show how the drivers reacted, and verify license plate numbers and the presence of witnesses. Exterior dash cameras are perfectly legal to use on public roads and highways, as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in these areas. However, you may wish to consult with an attorney or other legal expert before using an exterior-facing dash camera while on private property, such as commercial parking lots and roadways.
- Interior Video Footage. This gives another perspective of the crash. Footage will show how severe the effects of the crash were on passengers. But drivers must be mindful of the interior dash camera so as to not drive distracted or behave in a manner that will implicate them, such as by texting, drinking alcohol, using drugs, or taking their eyes off the road. Interior video dash cameras are popular among Uber, Lyft and other service drivers when it comes to customer disputes about fares, complaints or harassment suits. In some states including California, the driver must have a visible posted notice disclosing to passengers that they are being recorded.
- Audio. Some dash cameras have a microphone which can record the vehicle’s interior audio. Recording audio can help identify who was in the car, and give examiners an idea of the state-of-mind of the driver and their passengers at the time of the incident. For example, sound bites of the driver admitting to being tired or listening to music at an excessive volume can potentially be used in a case. Again, in some states including California, the driver must post a notice letting their passengers know that audio is being recorded.
- Speed, time and location. If the dash camera has a GPS integrated into the system, then this data can be accepted as evidence. This eliminates any doubt about the time and place of an accident, But you do have to be mindful of the car’s speed. If you were exceeding the speed limit at the time of an accident, this can be used against you.
Dash cams are especially useful in accidents involving hit-and-run drivers, which are all too common.
According to the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety there are 682,000 hit-and-run accidents on average each year. While most hit-and-run accidents cause minor damage to vehicles, property and passengers, some tragically result in fatalities. If dash cameras helped solve only 5% of hit-and-run accidents, this would result in over 34,000 cases being closed every year bringing thousands of perpetrators to justice and helping recover millions of dollars in medical bills and property damage.
Many higher-end models of dash cameras can even record when the car is not in use, using motion sensor technology. This is perfect for identifying the perpetrators of hit-and-run cases, as well as vandalism and theft.
Before you purchase and install a dash camera, there are a few things you should know.
Dash cameras are generally quite easy to set up and install, usually taking no more than an hour. Make sure you adhere to California’s vehicle code regarding the placement of “video event recorders,” as described in VC 26708 Number 13 and 14.
Knowing is half the battle. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure your camera is fully functional and operating properly when you need it most:
- Understand how to power on and off your camera.
- Know how to record, save and write over video footage.
- Understand how to use an SD or microSD card.
- Review footage to check what the dash camera captures. It would be wise to check the camera footage every month, as the camera may move position over time due to road vibrations and passenger interference. Some cameras come with an LED display, so you can instantly check the camera angle, while others do not, and so you will have to record test footage, then review on a computer or television.
- Know how to turn on and off the interior camera and microphone.
- Make sure GPS is enabled if the camera comes with this feature.
- Check to see if the internal clock is set to the right time.
- Adjust the frame rate and video quality to your preference. High frame rate and video quality is recommended, as you will want the best picture quality possible to capture every detail of the scene.
- Some dash cameras can be linked to a phone via an app. Make sure such integrations are set up and functioning properly.