26 Mar 2019

Will my dashcam cover me in the event of an accident?

Dash cams: the laws you need to know
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Dash cams have become hugely popular in Australia, but did you know this footage might not always be admissible in a court of law or an insurance claim?

None of us ever want to be in a car accident.

Unfortunately, human error means we are all capable of being in a bingle which can be an expensive exercise if you were at fault.

This has led to the rise of the dash cam, small cameras capable of filming hours of footage – including audio – while you are on the road.

But what are your legal requirements around this practice? Can it actually help you with insurance and in a court of law? The Motor Report investigates.

What are the laws around recording using a dash cam?

This depends on which state or territory you live in or are driving through at the time.

There is no specific reference to dash cams in the Federal Government’s Privacy Act 1988, but they would fall under the category of surveillance cameras operated by individuals.

The laws pertaining to these devices fall under the jurisdiction of states and territories.

Here is the breakdown:

Victoria: Under the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 it is an offence to use your dash cam to record audio of private conversations or record video footage of a private activity to which you are not a party.

New South Wales: The Surveillance Devices Act 2007 means that you can record vision freely using a dashcam, as long as you have not installed it into a vehicle or premises that is not your own.

Queensland: There is no concrete legislation regarding dash cams, as long as they do not impede your ability to drive.

South Australia: Private conversations are off limits under the Listening and Surveillance Devices Act 1972, but conversations where it can be reasonably assumed you can be heard are acceptable. The act does not outlaw visual devices, but has a section on ‘unlawful stalking’ if it is used in this manner

Western Australia: The same laws apply for recording private conversations as South Australia. Private acts cannot be filmed, but this does not apply to public places where it can be reasonably assumed you will be watched.

Tasmania: There is no legislation for video in Tasmania, only the Listening Devices Act 1991. Recording conversations that could be deemed private is illegal, but in general public conversations are not regarded as private.

Northern Territory: Private conversations and activities cannot be recorded, but these are generally not considered private if conducted in public spaces.

ACT: The same as the NT.

Will dashcam footage hold up in court?

Absolutely, but you might need to present yourself as well. If you were the person in the accident, then this is not likely to be an issue. But it is something to consider for people providing dash cam footage of accidents they are not involved in.

The footage needs to be provided to police along with a witness statement and then you will need to give evidence in court, if the charged person pleads not guilty and elects to go for a hearing.

You will need to testify in court the origin of the footage and swear that it has been unaltered.

Will they assist in your insurance claim?

This footage can assist in your insurance claim, but be warned – not every dash cam is the same.

Most insurers actively encourage people to use dash cams and present the footage as part of their insurance claim if there is an accident.

"In some cases, dash cam footage is more valuable than witness statements, especially if it is clear and captures the direct cause of an accident," a Suncorp spokesperson said.

And therein lies the catch – the quality of the vision.

Low resolution dash cam footage may not assist your case if it is impossible to determine who was at fault.

If you are going to invest in a dash cam, ensure the footage is clear or you might be caught in a frustrating scenario where you were not at fault but cannot prove it.

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