Dash cam is short for dashboard camera. It is a video camera that you install in your car that records while you are driving. Last year I wrote an article in support of the dash cam. Here we are a year later and I would contend it is even more important now than it was a year ago. Per the Connectncdot.gov website, Charlotte, North Carolina had the highest percentage of vehicle accidents in all of North Carolina for 2018 and 2019 for cities with over 10,000 people and has been in the top five since at least 2016. Not something to brag about. Hickory, North Carolina is on an upward trajectory in terms of improvement, but still has been in the top 20 for the past four years. According to NCDOT.GOV, the fatality rate for traffic accidents in North Carolina in 2020 is higher than 2019, despite being fewer overall accidents. These statistics highlight the importance of dash cams, especially in North Carolina where we still have a law called contributory negligence.
Contributory negligence means that if the other vehicle’s insurance company determines that you are one percent (1%) at fault for the accident, you do not get to recover at all and are going to be responsible for your own injuries and damages—car repairs, rental car, medical bills, lost wages, etc. Even if the investigating officer determines that you are not at fault and gives the other driver a ticket for the accident, their insurance company can still legally deny the claim for contributory negligence. At that point, your only option to even try to recover for all those damages would be to file a lawsuit, which can be both time consuming and expensive, and even then it is not a guarantee you will prevail.
Many people who have been involved in an accident, particularly if it is their first time being involved in an accident—or their first time being involved in an accident in North Carolina (Hello to all those folks like myself who have decided to make North Carolina home!), are surprised to learn about contributory negligence and how it works. This is why a dash cam can be your best friend (or your worst enemy if you are at fault) if you are involved in an accident that is disputed by the other driver’s insurance company, even if there is no known dispute at the scene of the accident. In other words, do not delete or erase the video of the events leading up to the accident, the accident itself and the post-accident activity, until your claim is settled or otherwise resolved.
At the top of North Carolina accident reports, in bold type, you will notice it reads “This report is for the use of the Division of Motor Vehicles. The data is collected for statistical analysis and subsequent highway safety programming. Determinations of ‘fault’ are the responsibility of Insurers or of the State’s Courts.” This is what allows insurance companies to deny claims even when their insured was negligent in causing the collision. Their insurance company can still determine that you have contributed to the accident through your own negligence. Most often that alleged negligence is failing to keep a proper lookout. Meaning that if you had been keeping a proper lookout you would have been able to avoid the accident.
One example of where we often see allegations of contributory negligence is where the other driver is turning left in front of you. Even if you had the green light, there are many appellate cases in North Carolina that say you cannot rely blindly on a green light and still have a duty to see what should be seen (i.e. keep a proper lookout). The officer may even give the other driver a ticket for failure to yield the right of way. However, there are many factors to consider in making this determination, including the number of lanes at the intersection, the point of impact in the intersection, the point of impact between the two vehicles, and many other considerations, all of which could more easily be established with dash cam video. In an accident like the one described herein, a dash-cam can show the amount of reaction time, the distance between the vehicles when the other driver started their turn, etc. that can help to show the other driver was completely at fault.
A dash cam video is obviously not a guarantee to avoid a denial of your claim. However, it can give objective, credible, non-biased evidence as to what happened in the collision. A dash cam is also cost-effective and certainly less expensive than an accident reconstructionist, which may not be a realistic option in your case, mainly due to the expense. A dash cam is likely even be cheaper than your collision deductible, which you will need to use if your claim is denied.
Even with a dash cam video, we do not recommend handing over any video or giving a statement to an insurance company before talking to an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Whether you are injured in North Carolina or South Carolina, at the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, PC, we appreciate the opportunity to see if we can help.