Will a Dashcam Help my Case if I’m Involved in a Car Accident?

/ / Car Accidents, Trucking Accidents
Dashcam on car front windshield

With the steep rise of almost 20% in the demand for dashboard mounted cameras, we are not far behind other countries in which dashcams are the norm.

An extra set of eyes, particularly one that records everything and provides crucial evidence is always helpful. This is what has led to the surge in popularity of dashcams. While these cameras are relatively inexpensive and the new editions come with an impressive number of features, some have wondered if they are legal in Kansas.

Another point to consider is if a dashcam video recording would be accepted as evidence in court. What good would a dashcam do, if the footage it captures cannot help you when you need it the most? Let’s explore what Kansas Laws say about the use of these cameras and if they make for a good investment.

How does a dashcam work?

Although the name suggests that it’s a camera mounted on the dashboard, most units are attached to the inside of the windshield with a suction cup. They record both audio and video footage and are available in single, dual and four channel versions.

A single channel dashcam is a forward-facing recorder that looks out of the front windshield while a dual/double channel dashcam captures footage from both the front and the rear of the vehicle with two cameras.

A four-channel dashcam captures feed from all four directions, but these are extremely rare in passenger cars and are generally used in commercial trucks. 

Depending on the product you purchase, a dashcam may require manual activation every time you want to use it or it may have an auto activation feature that switches the camera on the minute you crank the engine.

Most basic dashcams come with limited memory and can only store a few hours of video recording. Such devices have an auto-rewrite function that erases the data automatically, unless it is transferred to another device. However, high-end versions can be connected to an app that allows for cloud storage of the clips.

Why would you want to install a dashboard camera?

These devices offer several benefits for the owners of both business-use and private-use vehicles. Because they allow you to capture on-road and off-road incidents as they happen, they take the guess work out of occurrences that may cause dispute. For example:

  • The footage can be used to support your claim in case of a car accident.
  • Along the same lines, the video can be used to defend your position in case of a traffic violation fine or court proceedings.
  • It offers protection for a parked vehicle from vandals and hit and run drivers as it captures details on the people responsible for the property damage.
  • A video recording is the best way to separate facts from fiction when it comes to insurance fraud.
  • The camera allows you to capture instances of aggressive and reckless driving as well as road rage, and the footage makes it easy for the police to identify and trace the offenders.
  • For concerned parents, a dashboard camera offers the ability to keep a check on the driving ability and on-road behavior of their teen drivers.    
  • Similarly, a dashcam can be used by business owners to keep track of their fleet and to monitor driver/employee behavior.
  • Finally, it can help to capture the beauty of scenic routes that you may miss while driving. 

Are dashboard cameras legal in Kansas?

When you talk about the legality of installing and using a dashcam in Kansas, you are essentially dealing with two legal issues:

1. Vehicle laws pertaining to obstructed view: Unlike neighboring Missouri, Kansas has a very clear law that prohibits the use of any sticker/object that could obstruct the view of the driver. More clearly, this is what KSA-8-1741 (a) say:

No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings or side or rear windows of such vehicle which substantially obstructs, obscures or impairs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.”

Notice these three important phrases:

  1. Nontransparent material: Dashcams are certainly not made of transparent material, so they don’t pass this requirement.
  • Substantially obstructs: This is the part with the most amount of ambiguity. Many states that have the obstruction language provide a clear definition of what qualifies as “substantial obstruction”. For instance, Indiana allows mounts that only cover a 4-inch square on the lower edge of the windshield on the passenger side.

In Nevada, this limit is raised to a 6-inch square mount. However, Kansas does not provide any such clarification. Consider the size of your mount and the obstruction of your view before purchasing a dashcam.

  • Upon the front windshield: If your dashcam is not on the windshield you have a much higher chance of avoiding penalties.

2. Privacy laws: The second legal issue that you are likely to encounter when using a dashcam is that of recording a video without the permission of the person who is being recorded. Kansas is a “One Party” State, which means that as long as one participating party knows about the recording, a recording device can be used.

In this case, because you have installed the camera in your car, which is your property and you are capturing the footage from your vehicle, while you are on a public road, you cannot be accused of privacy rights violation. However, if you point the camera to your neighbor’s windows, you will likely find yourself in trouble.

Can dashboard camera footage be admitted in Kansas courts as evidence?

As recently as March 2019, dashcam video was admitted as evidence in a Kansas Court in a matter that involved a police officer accidentally shooting a motorist during what was supposed to be a routine traffic violation stop.

Although the video evidence came from police dashcams, there is no reason for the courts to discriminate between a recorder used by the police and one that is used by a civilian. As long as the footage is of good quality and proves the veracity of your statement, it can be used as evidence.

If you do have any trouble using the footage, an experienced attorney can certainly help. Because video footage is routinely used in both criminal and civil cases, including in personal injury claims, a skilled lawyer can convince the judge that the dashcam footage is vital to proving your version of the story.  

Remember, a dashcam can work in your favor or against you!

Dashcams can easily become a double-edged sword. Depending on what the video shows, the footage can be used to either implicate you or to vindicate you. For instance:

  • The video clip can be used to defend a motorist who has accidentally hit a pedestrian but was not speeding or using unlawful driving practices at the time of the crash.
  • Similarly, the footage can be used to prove that the narrative of the police concerning a traffic violation by the driver is incorrect.
  • Because some dashcams continue to record even when the car is parked, the video can also be used to prove car damage.
  • The footage can also be used to prove that you rear-ended somebody or that you were speeding or that you ran a red light when you crashed into another car/pedestrian.

In a nutshell, the camera will provide a view of what really happened without prejudice. In fact, given the advanced features of some of the more recent dashcams, things may come to a point where in litigation, instead of wasting time on “he said this, she said that” the court will directly go to” let’s see what the camera shows”.

Should you invest in a dashcam?

If you are a safe and careful driver, a dashcam will provide peace of mind and evidence of your innocence. If you are an aggressive driver or prone to reckless behavior and road rage when behind the wheel, a dashcam is not for you. For instance, if you often tend to go over the speed limit, a camera that imbeds vehicle speed into the clip can spell a lot of trouble for you.

If you are in an accident where you are the at-fault driver, and if you don’t have a camera, it will be your word against that of the other motorist and possibly witnesses. The other side will certainly not have something as concrete as a video footage to prove your fault.

However, if you do have a dashcam and if the footage is available, the other side can request the court to order you to surrender the footage. In fact, you will be legally obligated to provide it during the discovery stage of the trial.

Any attempt to erase the video, in such a scenario, will amount to destruction of evidence, which can add significantly to your legal woes. Simply put, if you are a law abiding and conscientious driver, this is the gadget for you. If not, you won’t like the transparency brought by dashcams.

How can dashcam footage be used when making an insurance claim?

With a video, there is little left to interpretation and almost no space for argument. If the insurer (yours or the defendant’s) is trying to hold you responsible for the accident or is trying to minimize the severity of the accident or seriousness of your injuries, dashcam footage can go a long way in turning the tide in your favor. For instance, with a dashcam footage in hand, you could prove/dispute:

  • Traffic violations, including missed stopped signs.
  • Aggressive driving and speeding.
  • Low visibility or inclement weather that interfered with forward visibility.
  • Hit and run drivers.
  • Phantom car accidents.
  • Hostile drivers and instances of road rage.
  • Wrong behavior on the part of a pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist.

However, dashcam footage is not infallible. Do not expect the insurance adjusters to simply accept the clip. It is always possible to challenge the footage based on the quality of the video and recording done in low light/visibility conditions. There have also been cases in which the defense argued that the sensors of the dashcam were not calibrated properly and could not accurately capture the intensity of the impact.

In the hands of an experienced attorney, dashcam footage can turn into a central piece of evidence that can be used to prove your case and get you the compensation you deserve. Call DeVaughn James for a free consultation!