When it comes to a car accident, a video recording can become a powerful tool when put into fair use as the dashcam’s recording can present damning or exonerating evidence for your injury claim.
What is a Dash Cam?
It is a small electronic device equipped with a camera and sound recording device mounted onto your vehicle’s dashboard that records anything happening in front of your vehicle. The device records everything that occurs on the road while driving. Some brands come with the sound recording while others only provide a video with no sound.
Does it mean the camera is continuously recording?
No, in most cases, individuals set the camera to start recording once you start the car. Others activate in parking mode for security against hit and runs. The only challenge with dash cams is the small storage capacity, limiting the amount or recording one has for a day.
Dashcams can only store 6 hours’ worth of video. Any previous recordings are automatically deleted to create more space. Therefore, to keep everything your camera records while on the move requires an external storage device such as a hard drive. Saving these recordings can provide you with crucial data or information if you find yourself in an accident or become a witness to one.
Is Using a Dash Cam Legal?In the state of Florida, the use of a dashcam is legal, however, you must meet the following specification for it to be legal.
- First of all, it must not cause windshield obstruction. The Florida statutes indicate that drivers or vehicles cannot efficiently operate a car with an obstructed windshield (Title XXIII §316.2004), the Florida Windshield Obstruction Law. An obstruction can include a poster or a poster or any opaque item placed in front of a windshield. The offense consists of anything that obstructs, impairs, or obscures the driver’s visibility while on the road or highway.
A dashcam is an item that is non-transparent and can lead to vision impairment while driving. Therefore, instead of placing it in front of a windshield where you might argue exact video coverage, put it on the dashboard of your car for legality. If not, you can add it to your rear-view mirror in a way that does not in any way obstruct your visibility while driving.
All in all, no specific law downright prohibits the use of a dashcam in Florida. By meeting the windshield obstruct requirements, you can travel and take videos without the worry of legal ramifications.
What About Sound Recording, Most Dash Cams Have That Capability?
Sound recording is a different matter altogether in comparison to dashcams’ presence. Under the Florida Electronic Audio Surveillance Law (F.S. Title XLVII §934.03), if using a sound recording, get individuals’ permission/consent in the recording. A dashcam is a video taking device, but it can also capture individuals’ sounds in the vehicle or environment surrounding the incident.Otherwise, using the dashcam as a recording device becomes a criminal offense under wiretapping Florida laws. You need to notify individuals present on the recording and obtain their consent if planning to use it as evidence. The rule exempts the recording of public servants such as traffic police while on duty.
Smith v. City of Cumming set precedence indicating that it is in the public interest to protect individual rights to gather information regarding public officials’ activities while on general duties or property, especially if the matter at hand is in regards to public interests. However, police officers still take this action as an act against their authority or a threat.
In another case, a lady in Tampa records a police officer issuing her husband a DUI. The police charge the women with several offenses after feeling threatened. The City (Tampa) pays a collective amount of $41,500 as settlement, after dropping the charges. Here, the police were in the wrong, but the opposite can also be true. Thus, remaining calm and notifying the authority of your rights to record any conversation can go a long way in mitigating accidental claims or aggravating police officers while working.
Is The Footage Present On The Dash Cam Admissible In A Florida Court?
There is no specific law set to regulate the admissibility of footage from a dashcam in Florida. Admissibility is a technicality as Florida statutes indicate that it is admissible similar to videotapes, pictures, or photographs depending on video authenticity and a clear depiction of what happened during the incident. Also, a qualifying statement from the owner further cements the admissibility of the footage.
At the moment, the surrounding circumstances involved in an accident claim affect the overall outcomes. For instance, a court had two results after reviewing dashcam footage in Florida. Therefore, yes, dashcam footage is admissible in a court, but the outcomes vary with the clarity and beyond doubt reflection of the incident.
When it comes to the footage’s authenticity, Lerner v. Halegua, a case before the Third District Court of Appeal of Florida, ruled out the footage from a camera. The base of this decision was that the plaintiff did not install it and cannot testify to its authenticity. The footage was, therefore, inadmissible as the court deemed it inauthentic.In summary, if your dashcam footage is essential to your case, you have to testify to its authenticity or bring in someone who can prove beyond doubt that no tampering has occurred for it to be admissible in a Florida Court.
Can A Dash Cam Footage Hurt Your Chances Of Receiving Compensation In An Accident Claim Case?
Yes! Dashcam footage is only beneficial to you if it can give an okay or confirm your accidental claims. It must show that the other driver acted negligently or clearly show the accident or incident beyond doubt. For instance, a car swerving before hitting you from the front, or vehicle identification details before a hit and run, are permissible and work in your favor.
However, if the dashcam does not capture the exact details, is grainy or the whole incident is not clear enough, it may end up hurting your chances of getting compensation. If the footage does not correspond with your claim and indicates that you have some level of contribution to the incident or accident, then your chances deep lower.
Circumstances surrounding the incident before or after can also play a role. They determine whether the footage is beneficial or harmful to your case. You may have been speeding, on the phone, or engaged in a conversation, which is distractions and can cause an accident. If these disapprove of your claim, then you end up losing more than expected.
Getting the footage to an attorney before seeking admission to the accidental claim case helps prevent some of these occurrences. Remember, the opposing side will want to use the footage to their advantage, and so will you!
Is There A Chance That Using The Dash Cam Footage Can Be A Success?
Yes! In one of the press cases in Orange County, Florida, the WESH news in an interview with Sgt. Kim Montes described such a case where the accused acquitted himself against the charges using dashcam footage. In the case, a mustang driver died after a collision with an SUV while on a state road. The accused presented the dashcam as evidence indicating he was not part of the clashes that led to the driver’s death.
How Do I Know If I Can Use My Dash Cam Footage?
Dashcam footage contains many details, and many factors can play into the occurrence of an accident or incident. That does not mean that it will not be admissible in a court of law. However, it is an indication that you may require specialized assistance from our law firm to decide whether or not to admit the dashcam evidence.
For further information, we invite you to contact the DRG Law Firm office for a free injury claim evaluation. Here we will be able to discuss any questions you may have and let you know of the best way to move forward.