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Can Dashcam Footage be Used in Court for a Car Accident Claim in Louisiana?

Posted in Car Accidents on July 25, 2022

Dashcams are becoming increasingly popular with the quick advancements of society in the field of technology. This new revolution is one which has transformed every facet of day-to-day life for everyday Americans. As this stems from everything from food delivery services available at the click of a button to self-adjusting window tints, the possibilities are endless. Yet these novelties have even bled into more “serious” sectors of society as well – legal battles. 

The increasing availability and decreasing prices of cameras have led to a new wave of utilizations. One of the first beckons of this change was with CCTV (Closed-circuit television), which are effectively security cameras. These can be found posted on corners in nearly all streets, businesses, and public spaces across the country. These commercial uses quickly led to a rise in personal-use cameras such as the common car dashcam. 

What Dashcams Are and Why People Use Them

Dashboard cameras, commonly known by their shortened name “dashcams,” are marketed as personal security tools for those hoping for an extra line of defense, should the need for proof arise. Personal cameras have taken some parts of the world by storm, with high utilization rates in many countries across the world. The United States has likewise seen a surge in people using dashcams. 

These small, mounted cameras are usually affixed to the inside of a car, pointing outside toward the visible road from either the dashboard or back window. Dashcams are normally quite small and compact, attempting to minimize view obstruction as much as possible. These can have a range of functions, from ones that constantly record and upload footage to a “cloud” and others in which one is able to save loops of recordings. 

As previously mentioned, Americans use dashcams in the hope of protecting themselves. While this technological miracles  obviously do not prevent accidents from occurring, their footage may prove to be helpful when determining whose fault an accident was. Furthermore, should an issue proceed to court, the footage may be used during a lawsuit in a case in which the other driver attempts to fight the issue. This footage can even hold insurance companies accountable if they try to evade paying out a claim. 

However, the usage of a dashcam, and subsequently its footage, is not always so straightforward. As is with most cases, the individual states in the US hold a high degree of power when it comes to situations such as these. Where some states may permit the usage of a dashcam, others may not allow the footage to be presented to an officer, for example. It is therefore critical that residents know local legislation regarding the use of dashcams and similar tools. 

Louisiana and its Complicated Relationship with Dashboard Cameras

The state of Louisiana has a different set of rules and regulations regarding dashcams than many other states. Unfortunately, the lack of straightforward verbiage in Louisiana laws is exactly why the situation is so complicated and confusing for many in the Bayou State.

Many sources across the internet claim the use of dashcam footage in Louisiana is outlawed completely, a conclusion which has been come to as a result of LSA-R.S. 32:282(C), which states  “No person shall drive any vehicle with any nontransparent material upon the windshield, side wings, side or rear windows, other than a certificate or other paper required to be so displayed by law, or permitted by regulation of the secretary of public safety.”

The first issue with this statute is  it was enacted in 1962 – long before the usage of dashcams in American society. It is for this reason, at least in practice, the statute is seldom prosecuted by authorities. Many in Louisiana point to toll passes and the like directly issued by the state which are affixed to windshields. These are used every day by millions of residents and are obviously not illegal. 

Numerous past rulings have upheld this fact, going so far as to state that dashcams may “be the best evidence of the defendant’s stop and arrest”, which goes to say  their usage is widely accepted for court proceedings. Other previous rulings have approved the viewing of dashcam footage by a jury. 

It is, however, still important for residents to take note of this statute in the case it does come up. Safety professionals suggest the use of the smallest available units which may be affixed to some of the lower-most points on a dashboard in an attempt to minimize obstruction of view and avoid being ticketed. The mounting of a camera on a dashboard is an extra layer of safety as well, as the previously-stated statute explicitly names the windshield as the unlawful location of the obstruction. Many dashcams are in use by thousands of Louisianans, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

The Use of Dash Cams in the Courts

Godchaux v. Peerless Ins. Co. was a landmark case in which the use of dashcam footage was approved in a civil automobile case. This has been used in subsequent cases to reinforce the display of footage – even in criminal cases.

While there is no current record of LSA-R.S. 32:282(C) being successfully used as a way to prevent footage from being brought to court, Louisiana is an at-fault state, meaning the footage may end up working against someone to some degree. If a person was to be speeding, not paying attention, or acting in some other act which is unlawful, one may be partially responsible for damages

The Rundown for the Everyday Driver

While it is technically illegal to have an obstruction on one’s windshield, the use of dashcams has little to no risk for those found using them. Cameras are regularly used in Louisiana courthouses and may be extremely valuable for those battling individuals falsely attempting to shed culpability. These facts have been supported in a court of law more than once. In the same stroke, however, the use of dash cams can work against an individual, should someone be committing even a minor offense in the presented footage. All in all, dashcams are widely used and their footage is employed in Louisiana courts.