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Is it wise to install a dashboard camera (dash cam) on my car for use in personal injury cases & traffic infractions?

Winter Park, FL |

I'm considering installing a front windshield camera and a rear dash cam as well, for potential legal aid as either a defendant or plaintiff in car accident or personal injury cases. I drive very carefully and have never caused an accident in my life-- but in the event I *do* cause an accident, can my own footage cause legal harm to myself? If so, does this potential for harm outweigh the legal benefits of recording my surroundings at all times? And should I record with or without audio (with respect to my audible reactions / passenger conversations harming my case)?

Attorney Answers 7

Posted

Let me state the issue in this way: I use my iPhone as a dash-cam.

There is no expectation of privacy in public--even though many law enforcement officers apparently think otherwise. see Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011)--and when you are traveling in a vehicle, you are in public. I simply love suing police departments that attempt to prosecute people for having dash-cams or using their cellular phones to record police officers in public. (My favorite question to ask police officers is "Isn't it true, officer, that YOUR patrol car has a dash-cam that records audio and video?")

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, especially in quickly evolving situations where emotions run high (such as a crash), and as a former insurance claims adjuster and current personal injury attorney, I know of many cases in which insurance companies have denied liability because there were no independent witnesses to a crash.

I expect that cars will come factory-equipped with such devices in a few years; furthermore, most crashes occur at intersections, and many of those intersections are camera and/or video monitored.

Can another party use such information against you? Certainly. But almost all evidence is a double-edged sword and can cut both ways. If you are at-fault in a crash, and the other side doesn't ask for that evidence during discovery, then shame on them. You have no obligation to volunteer adverse evidence or make the other side's case. If, however, you destroy such evidence, you can be liable for a spoliation claim, meaning that the judge can order the jury to presume the video was adverse to your case.

As with anything else in life, you must look at the risks and make your own choices. Life is, as Justice Learned Hand stated, "The calculus of risk." (Yes, that was his true name. Poor guy.)

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L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Magnificent answer.

Posted

Anything's possible, but it seems like the good outweighs the bad. If the camera is discreet and no one knows about it, theoretically it could be kept to yourself, though you could be compelled to provide it if another party knew of it. Likewise, it will protect you from false allegations, by police for example. Considering it would be in your car which would be used on public roads and public places, no one could ever really claim an invasion of privacy (except maybe other passengers in your car who don't know their voice is being recorded). As long as your passengers aren't secretly being recorded, it should be okay.

This is not to be considered legal advice nor does an attorney-client relationship exist.

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L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Under general principles of law, Asker could be compelled to provide it whether or not someone knew about it, if a proper discovery request in litigation requested any photographs or videos of the accident scene or the accident itself.

Eric J Trabin

Eric J Trabin

Posted

That is true. If served with pleadings specifically requesting it, then it would be fraudulent to lie about it.

Posted

In my view, it cuts both ways. If the dash cam records everything, it can pick up both the driver's negligent acts or omissions as well as other drivers' negligent acts or omissions. My understanding from having watched the coverage of the Chelyabinsk meteor is that the practice of installing webcams in cars is widespread in Russia because of the prevalence there of fraudulent claims. If you are expecting to be slammed into by someone who does so intentionally so they can sue you, it's understandable that you would want to protect yourself.

I think webcam footage is likely to protect a cautious and prudent motorist, and will come back to bite a careless or reckless motorist. Don't record your passengers' conversations without their knowledge, as it is likely to violate the federal wiretapping law.

Not legal advice as I don't practice law in Florida. It's just my two cents on the facts you describe in light of general principles of law. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds Florida licensure. That's not me as I practice in Vermont ONLY.

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Posted

I would advise against it. Seems like a dangerous double-edged sword. In my opinion, the unlikely benefits outweigh the risk of self-incrimination or assumed liability.

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Posted

Recording audio in Florida without consent is a felony.
Dash cam evidence will be discoverable in court (you will be compelled to provide a copy to the opposition), and probably admissible in evidence. So the evidence you are creating will cut both ways. The analysis is the same as a retail stores' survelliance video.

This is a summary based on incomplete facts. You should not rely on it as legal advise. No attorney-client relationship is intended to be formed. You may call me 772-562-4570; email me vblawyer@bellsouth.net, or visit my website http://www.millerlawoffices.us

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Posted

No, not advisable.

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Posted

In Florida, you run the risk of being charged with a felony

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Asker

Posted

A felony charge of what kind?

Roger Scott Jr.

Roger Scott Jr.

Posted

Under the wiretapping statute

Asker

Posted

Does that statute not apply only to audio? How, then, can police cruisers legally record from dashcams?

Roger Scott Jr.

Roger Scott Jr.

Posted

The police have an exemption written into the statute. Lets be clear though, I said that you could risk being arrested. You may or may not be actually convicted. Natio wide, these statutes are being heavily litigated. That makes it harder to predict any one person's potential liability

Christopher Robert Dillingham II

Christopher Robert Dillingham II

Posted

Herein lies the problem with the law: It is rarely cut and dried with clear, bright-line rules, and one fact-pattern may involve different area of law, and those areas of law may result in conflicts ("conflict of law" cases are among the most difficult to litigate because they also involve hierarchy of laws--for example, a First Amendment right to free speech versus the State's interest in public health, safety and welfare--and legislative intent in crafting such laws. Additionally, statutory and case law rarely keeps pace with technology, and this creates legal friction. For example, SCOTUS decided in Kyllo that police could no longer use heat sensors to detect marijuana grow houses without a warrant because heat sensors weren't readily available to the public. Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001). Yet a drug-sniffing dog was and is perfectly okay. Yet in 2013, such technology is readily available to the public. Is Kyllo still good law? I don't know. I could argue it is not, but I have no way of predicting if it is a winning argument, and laws don't change unless some attorney argues they should change. Now, with dash-cameras, if the driver is in public and video-records something outside his car, then that is clearly a case where no one being recorded has any reasonable expectation of privacy. But what about inside the car? Is that a public area? Is there a reasonable expectation of privacy inside another parson's vehicle? I think the question can be argued either way. I certainly have a reasonable expectation not to be recorded in my own car if the scenario involves someone placing a device in my car without my knowledge. But what if a passenger is recording me? Does it matter if the windows are down? Probably. Does it matter how many people are in the vehicle? Maybe. Does the relationship between the parties matter? Maybe. What if the vehicle is a bus full of people? That's an even grayer area of law. There is less expectation of privacy in a car than in a home (my home is wired for video inside and out). Yet if I hold a party in my home, I could lose than reasonable expectation of privacy--especially if strangers can attend. (Think of Mitt Romney's ill-received words at what he called a "private party" but was arguably a public fundraiser with wait-staff who were not friends and family of Mr. Romney.) There is also the concept of the "unreliable ear" that comes into play, meaning if you tell someone something outside of a confidential relationship, then you destroy that confidentiality. So if I am huddled in a corner with another attorney at a huge public party discussing a case, and I have no reason to expect someone is recording or listening to me, I still have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Plus, if someone knows beforehand that you are recording him, then he speaks at his own peril. This is why companies can record you when you call their offices so long as you are on notice the call might be recorded. All it takes is an occasional beep to put you on notice. If you don't want to be recorded, then don't speak; if you do speak, then you've consented even if you say "Don't record me" (so long as the company representative doesn't state he has stopped recording you, of course). If you call a police department, though, even if the officer lies and says he isn't recording you, you still have no expectation of privacy. So, to come full circle, Florida's wiretapping statute was written in the days when phones had wires that people actually tapped. I suspect it was written to prevent government abuses and to punish blackmailers, etc., and I don't it has much relevance to dash-cameras. Conversely, Florida also has a right to privacy explicitly stated in its constitution, and that right to privacy has been applied to both public and private entities. This issue involves reasonable expectations of privacy, the statutory intent of the law, and framed against the Florida Constitution's right to privacy. The law is a complex tapestry of interwoven statutes, case law, and confli

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