As you travel in the city, you may have noticed more bicyclists with bike cameras strapped to their helmets, handlebars, and even their bodies. Referred to as ‘bike-cams’ for short, the use of such devices offers a number of benefits to cyclists. The Cycling Injury Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. are pleased to see that bicyclists are taking the initiative to improve their own safety, as well as protect their interests by ensuring that evidence is preserved in the event an accident occurs. In addition, an individual’s awareness that they are being videotaped, has been shown to be a deterrent to negligent or reckless conduct. The following discusses the effect that bike-cams can have on three primary groups of individuals-Bicyclists, Motorists, and Attorneys.
While, for bicyclists, the purpose of using a bike-cam is less likely to be associated with monitoring their own bicycling habits, these devices can actually allow cyclists the ability to observe their own riding practices, which can aide in the prevention of serious injury or fatality. Perhaps more important to accident prevention, though, is the potential effect that bike cams can have on motorist conduct. When a driver knows that they are being recorded, that motorist might be far more inclined to: Ensure cautious overtaking and yield; Maintain the statutory 3 foot distance; and Demonstrate more vigilant driving in general. In accordance with the foregoing, it is easy to see the manners in which bike-cams can both contribute to the prevention of bike collisions, as well as to the prevention of other types of accidents.
Although bike cams can certainly aide in reduction of bike collisions, bike-cams play an entirely different role once an crash has occurred. As recently reported by the Chicago Sun, “Attorneys say the cameras could be useful in the event of an accident but that bicyclists should use the cameras with caution.” While partly in agreement with this statement from the media, the use of bike-cams-when considered from the legal perspective-is actually a bit more complicated. Stated simply, bike-cams can have both positive and negative attributes. In assessing the potential use and application of bike-cam footage following an accident, it is important to take into consideration two key factors: (1) Value / Effect of Liability Determination; (2) Legality; (3) Admissibility.
With regard to liability, bike-cams can document valuable evidence in support of a damage claim, particularly where liability is in question. At the same time, video footage can also provide evidence that negates a party’s assertion regarding liability. However, cyclists generally need not worry about this second consideration, so long as they ride safely and in accordance with the law. In some cases, bike camera footage may have a more neutral effect, in that it neither supports nor negates liability, which can result in increased debate between the parties over the issue of fault.
In recent times, the use of bike cams to record both video and audio footage, presented concerns for cyclists as to whether such recordings constituted criminal conduct. However, on March 20, 2014, in the case of People v. Clark, the Illinois Supreme Court, invalidated the state’s eavesdropping law, holding that it was overly broad, and in violation of the First Amendment, and therefore unconstitutional. Given the recentness of this ruling, and the need for Illinois Legislature’s reworking of the statute, the debate over privacy issues is not over just yet.
The third factor to take into consideration, regarding the use of bike cams, is admissibility. In understanding this issue, it is helpful to distinguish between claims that are settled prior to reaching the trial stage, and cases that are expected to go to trial. Prior to trial, bike cam footage may be used as leverage in the settlement of a claim. At the same time, a party opponent may refuse to settle based upon a video recording, because they feel that such evidence might be deemed inadmissible by the court. While in most cases, evidence will generally be admitted if it is relevant and useful to the trier-of-fact. However, the judge is the ultimate gate-keeper on this matter, and therefore has the authority to use their discretion in excluding evidence.
So, what can cyclists who wish to use a bike-cam take from all this? First, ride safely and in accordance with local and state laws. Second, know the current status of Illinois law regarding video and audio recording. Third, and most importantly, if you are involved in an incident that was recorded, immediately consult with a lawyer that is experienced in handling bicycling accident cases. The Chicago injury team of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. are dedicated trial attorneys, and want to help you obtain the compensation you and your family deserve. Contact us today at 773-516-4100, or online at www.zneimerlaw.com.