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Should I Buy a Dash Cam in Case of an Accident?

Cameras have become more and more prevalent in society. It seems that we constantly see disputes replayed on the evening news. Sometimes these disputes are between police and someone being arrested, tasered, or shot. Other times private citizens are engaged in quarrels, confrontations, or fights. We see videos of crooks smashing windows, running through a store front, and grabbing valuable merchandise. Some videos are light-hearted and capture humorous moments. Some videos go viral because they seem almost surreal – cars careening into buildings, through fences, or into telephone poles.

In a more benign manner, many drivers now use backup and side cameras to safely move their cars with greater safety than they ever could before. And small, portable, easily mountable cameras have become more popular than ever. People place them on their heads, their bikes, and of course, on the dashboards of their cars. So, in this era of technological innovation, should drivers buy dashboard and other cameras for their cars?

Can Dashboard and Other Cameras Provide Valuable Evidence?

Have you ever been shocked at how differently two people remember the same event or conversation? Certainly, there are times when a person “remembers” something in an untruthful way because he or she receives a benefit from such a recollection. But there are also many interesting examples in which witnesses to an event have no intention of distorting the truth, yet have material differences in their recollections.

Those of us who work in the world of litigation frequently interview or depose honest witnesses to the same event who express very different memories of what they observed. And the same thing can be true for verbal interactions. It is amazing how differently two people can recall the same conversation. In these situations, video from a camera can provide objective evidence. And let’s face it – lawyers and insurance companies often want more evidence.

Evidence of Liability –  The question here is, what did the dash cam capture? It’s normally not enough to show only that an accident occurred. Proving liability in a personal injury case requires the plaintiff to prove both that the accident occurred and that the defendant caused it. Sometimes, automobile cameras capture exactly how the other driver caused the accident. In other instances, the video simply does not capture everything necessary to prove liability. Therefore, sometimes a dash cam helps, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Evidence of Damages – Even when the evidence is clear that the other driver caused an accident, we have learned from experience that the wrongdoer’s insurance company and lawyer will often attempt to claim that the victim wasn’t hurt or was not hurt badly. On some occasions, dash cams can show the violent nature of a collision that supports an injured party’s claim of injuries.

Are Dash Cams Legal?

The rules concerning dash cams vary by state. In Oregon, there is no specific rule prohibiting the use of a camera in an automobile. However, 2017 ORS 815.220 makes it illegal to obstruct vehicle windows by placing any material on a vehicle window (including the front windshield) that prevents or impairs the ability to see into or out of the vehicle. While we are not aware of any appellate decisions on this issue, this could be read to include a dash cam. However, if you are interested in a camera, professional installers can present you with a variety of alternatives.

Another consideration occurs if the camera has the capability to record audio. 2017 ORS 165.540 prohibits the recording of conversations unless all parties to the conversation are informed that it is being recorded.

Call with Questions

If you have been injured in an accident, call the experienced lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield with your questions, and we will happily answer them. Then, if you need assistance, we can help. By holding wrongdoers accountable, we believe all of society is made safer.

Helpful Links

KATU2 Consumer Reports – “Dash Cams” –

Lifewire article – “Are Dash Cams Legal, Or Can They Get You in Trouble?” –