Why a dashboard camera could be your saving grace
This is according to Johannes du Plessis, a legal advisor at RBS (Risk Benefit Solutions Pty Ltd). He believes that not only could dash cam footage help vehicle owners avoid being held liable following an accident, but it can also assist individuals in recovering their damages if uninsured, or excess payments after an insurance claim.
“A great deal of motor vehicle accidents result in disputes over what actually happened and which party is liable for whose damages. We have seen time and again that witness testimonies are unreliable due to differences in perspective and viewpoints, changing testimony after persuasion, using incorrect synonyms in their testimonies, incorrect interpretation of facts, incorrect assumptions, and not being independent.”
He adds that it is likely that even the most responsible drivers may not be able to prove that they acted responsibly following an accident.
“These individuals may therefore have to incur the damages and expenses to their own vehicles and be held liable for tens of thousands of rand in damages to the other driver’s vehicle as well as the other driver’s expenses. Expenses, additional to the damages to both vehicles, include towing costs, storage costs and car hire which can also amount to a lot of money.”
Around 65% of drivers are uninsured according to estimates by the Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa. “The fact that another driver caused damages to your vehicle does not mean that the driver will definitely pay for your damages. Many existing uninsured drivers may not be able afford to pay for their own damages nor for the damages that they may cause to another vehicle,” du Plessis notes.
He explains that a collision at an intersection (four-way) statistically has the highest probability to lead to a liability dispute. “In as much as about 50% of collisions, both drivers allege that they stopped at the stop sign or that the traffic light was green for themselves and blame each other for the collision. In addition, as much as 40% of lane changes result in disputes. Damages to a vehicle for a minor collision may be as high as R38 000, while the damages for a major collision may be as high as the values of both vehicles involved in the collision.”
For these reasons, it is vital for drivers to have, at the very least, an own damage and third party liability policy for their vehicle. “Utilising dash cams to further help establish which party is really liable in an accident is an important risk management measure for drivers,” du Plessis adds. He also says that drivers in private vehicles are often under the impression that all commercial vehicles have dash cams, and that any such commercial vehicle involved in a collision with them must provide the footage to them. “In fact, only a small percentage of transport companies use dash cams, which means that the majority of such collisions may still result in disputes. It will therefore be advantageous for both private and commercial vehicle owners to install dash cams in their vehicles.”
Du Plessis explains that even fully-insured drivers can benefit from a dash cam. “In this case, installing a dash cam may not provide for premium reductions for insured drivers, but it can still help their insurers to recover their excess payments after an accident. Insurers often experience a lot of difficulty in recovering excess payments from the liable parties on behalf of their clients, because there is usually very little evidence to prove the liability of the other driver. Dash cams can provide the most accurate and objective account of an accident,” he concludes.