Body-worn cameras are becoming a staple of law enforcement in America, oftentimes helping the police dispute a claim of unfair treatment or proving “what really happened.” However, most drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident don’t realize the benefits a Body-Worn Camera (BWC) can have on their car accident claim.
Under the law and in the eyes of the court, statements made closest to the event (present sense impressions) are believed more than statements made in court months if not years later. Courts and jurors understand that statements made right after the event are usually clearer and fresher in the mind of the person making the statement. Thus, facts told to a police officer at the scene of an accident are truer than what can be coached or remembered differently down the road. Maryland car accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras Trial Lawyers explains.
What is a Body-Worn Camera?
A Body-Worn Camera is an electronic device worn by a law enforcement officer that records audio and video from the perspective of the individual wearing the device.
Axon, the largest BWC supplier in America is putting more devices into the field that capture the everyday workings of law enforcement in America.
In addition to audio and video, BWC’s can capture the GPS coordinates of the camera unit as well as the time frame the device has been activated in terms of seconds, minutes, and hours as well as the time of day.
In addition to the body camera, some law enforcement agencies have dash cameras (in-car cameras) to supplement the devices worn by the individual officers.
If you have been hurt in an accident, it is beneficial to have a law enforcement agency respond to the scene that utilizes BWC and in-car cameras.
What Does a Body-Worn Camera Capture in a Car Accident?
A body-worn camera will capture audio and video when activated. BWC’s are mounted in various locations on police officers. the most common location for BWC’s is on the chest of the police officer, however, some police officers will mount the device on the side of their glasses or on their shoulders.
Most BWC’s must be activated to record by the office pressing a button on the device. Yet some are connected to the police vehicle, gun, or taser of the law enforcement officials.
For example, when a police officer activates their overhead lights or sirens, the body-worn camera will turn on and begin recording. If a gun or taser is drawn, the camera will activate. Yet, the most common activation time is when a police officer begins to interact with a subject or witness, they will turn on their BWC.
What Does a Body-Worn Camera Not Capture?
Since a body-worn camera is worn by a police officer, it will not typically capture the accident itself since the police officer may not have witnessed the crash. However, as soon as the police officer arrives at the scene of the accident, it is possible the camera can catch everything that is happening around the crash site.
This can include skid marks, divots or indentions in the pavement created by a vehicle, debris fields from the vehicles, traffic patterns, traffic control device sequences, and much more valuable evidence that can be used at trial or in presenting the case to the insurance company.
How Can a Body-Worn Camera Help After a Maryland Car Accident?
BWC video can be invaluable in defending or proving fault after a car accident with direct testimony from the involved drivers telling their side of the story. This is a common occurrence after an accident.
At the scene of an auto accident, the at-fault driver may admit fault to the office. Yet in the days after the accident, that driver may talk to friends or family who convince the driver to tell a different story.
That at-fault driver may think that they can change their story and tell their insurance company an altered version of the accident that allows their insurance carrier to deny the insurance claim and thus make them not responsible for the injuries and damages.
Example of How BWC Helped a Victim of a Car Accident in Maryland
There are dozens of examples where BWC video and audio have helped a victim of a car accident prove they were not at-fault for an accident. In one example, our client was driving south on a four-lane highway and had a green light as she entered the intersection.
A vehicle driven by another person was heading westbound and ran a red light, t-boning our client. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage yet there were no independent witnesses to the accident, thus no one unrelated to the drivers could provide an unbiased version of the crash. When the police officer arrived, his BWC was activated and the other driver admitted that he ran the red light.
The police officer completed the report but did not note in the written report that the at-fault driver admitted fault at the scene of the accident. A few days later, after we were retained by the driver who had the green light, the other person’s insurance company called and indicated that our client ran the red light.
Our client was adamant that she did not run the red light and advised that the at-fault driver admitted at the scene to the police officer that he ran the red light. We ordered the body-worn camera footage and in the video, the other driver admitted to the police officer that he ran the red light. We were able to present this to the insurance company they quickly apologized and accepted liability.
Do You Need Body-Worn Camera Footage for Every Maryland Car Accident Case?
No, you do not need to obtain body-worn camera footage for every car crash case. In cases where liability is not disputed, then we do not generally need the BWC footage. However, when there is a dispute as to fault or where one driver admits fault at the scene and then denies it later, BWC footage can be valuable. BWC footage is a necessary piece of evidence we collect for our clients and we recommend it when the time is right for our clients.
Our car accident lawyers in Baltimore have also found it helpful to obtain BWC film when the injuries are so severe. We want the video to establish the severity of the accident, especially when there is a death, traumatic brain injury, or some other life-threatening injury to our clients.
If you have questions about body-worn camera footage and if it would be helpful in your accident claim, you should speak with your Maryland personal injury lawyer about the benefits and disadvantages of the video and audio recordings.
How Do You Get Body-Worn Camera Footage?
Body-worn camera footage is expensive to obtain and you may want to have your Aberdeen car accident lawyer request the video from the appropriate law enforcement agency. If you want to get the footage yourself, you typically need to submit a request with a money order or cashier’s check deposit to the agency that maintains the BWC.
Here are a few examples of agencies that allow you to request BWC in Maryland:
- Baltimore County Police Department BWC Form
- Baltimore City Police Department BWC Form
- Harford County Maryland Sheriff’s Department BWC Form
Not all police departments use body-worn cameras, so you have to check with the department that responded to your accident to determine if they have BWC footage.
Does Every Police Department Have Body Worn Cameras?
No, about 50% of police departments in the United States as of 2021 have issued body cameras to their officers. BWC programs are expensive and they require additional employees to watch and sift through the hours of video and audio recordings.
In most jurisdictions, the BWC footage is used by the prosecutors or State’s Attorneys to prosecute criminal offenses. This requires those departments to hire more employees to watch and redact sensitive information contained in the videos (personal information on driver’s licenses, video taken inside of medical facilities, etc.)
Contact a Maryland Car Accident Lawyer That Can Get Body-Worn Camera Footage
Car accidents can be tough to prove if both sides are denying they were at fault. Make sure you hire a Timonium auto accident lawyer that is familiar with the use of body-worn cameras. Our attorneys have successfully used the video and audio from BWC’s and dash cameras to win cases. Contact our office today to learn more about body-worn cameras and if they will help in your case.