By Thomas Henson
Bike cameras— it seems they are popping up everywhere. You see them mounted on handlebars, on riders’ helmets, on a chest strap, or even on a selfie stick during a rest break. These small and unobtrusive video cameras allow cyclists to capture the thrill of riding to share those thrills with friends and family. Aside from the thrill of reliving our cycling experiences, such devices also serve critical functions that keep cyclists safe and provide important evidence, should there be some kind of accident.
For those unfamiliar with these devices, a bike camera is a type of adventure video camera small enough to be mounted on a bike or worn by the rider. The user simply presses “record” and starts riding; the device captures all it sees in HD format, typically. Why are these so important for safety? To answer that I need to explain a couple of legal principles in North Carolina that significantly affect whether a cyclist can get medical bills and other losses paid in the event of a crash with a vehicle or other accident.
If while cycling you are hit by a car, in a perfect world your medical expenses are covered by the motorist’s car insurance. However, in order for such expenses to be covered, the driver must be found “negligent”, or at fault for, causing the crash. Negligence simply means failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. Easy enough, right? In theory, yes. But, proving negligence can sometimes be difficult, especially if no independent eyewitnesses saw the crash. To add difficulty, NC is one of only four states in the country with the law of “contributory negligence”, which means if the injured person is found to be at fault in any way in causing the crash or the injuries, then the person will recover nothing for medical bills or other losses. The combination of these two legal principles means it is absolutely crucial to be able to prove how a crash happens, bringing us back to the importance of bike cameras. I represent many cyclists, runners and walkers who have been involved in some kind of accident, and one of my biggest challenges when doing so is the dreaded “he said, she said” scenario.
Video footage is generally admissible as evidence in court, as long as the person taking the video testifies the video accurately depicts the events and the video has not been altered.
Imagine this: you are riding, following all of the rules of the road, enjoying your day, when a car speeds up behind you in an aggressive, intimidating fashion, the driver taunting you through the window. Imagine the driver pulls ahead and slams on their brakes in front of you, causing you to run into the rear of the car, fall off your bike, and break your leg, all through no fault of your own. The police show up, and you explain what happened, however, the driver claims he had to stop because of traffic and that you weren’t looking where you were going and ran into him. There are no eyewitnesses, and the investigating officer doesn’t know whom to believe. In addition, the officer cannot determine exactly what happened by the position of your bike or the resting place of the car, so the accident report is inconclusive and no citation is given to the driver. In this scenario, you will probably not be able to hold the driver responsible and recover for your losses, because it is a “he said, she said” situation. When that happens, the injured person often loses.
Imagine the same scenario but with a bike camera that recorded the event. Now you have audio and video evidence of the driver’s verbal assaults, video evidence you did nothing wrong and were not “contributorily negligent”, and video evidence that the crash was the driver’s fault and he was “negligent”. The chances of recovering what you are owed for medical bills, time out of work, and other losses, increase dramatically. NC courts have long held that such video footage is generally admissible as evidence in court, as long as the person taking the video testifies the video accurately depicts the events and the video has not been altered. It is also worth noting that simply having the camera on your bike may deter drivers from acting unreasonably and serve as a subtle but important reminder for them to drive carefully.
Like many aspects of technology, the choices of cameras are endless. GoPro has been the major player with their cameras being used in many adventure activities including cycling, surfing, skiing, and more. GoPro has attracted cyclists to their Hero5 camera, known for the numerous mounting alternatives. Other companies are quickly entering the market offering new features specifically for the cycling community. Garmin offers the Virb Ultra 30 with built-in GPS tracking. Drift offers their Stealth 2 camera with a 3-hour battery life (important for longer rides) and the ability to attach it to your helmet through the vents. Be sure to research battery life, mounting capabilities, video quality, size, and weight among different brands and models to determine what is best for you.
Do yourself a favor and invest in this important safety device and relive your cycling adventures for years to come. Ride Safe, and I’ll see you on the road!
Do you have a legal or safety question about cycling that you would like to see answered here? Email ThomasHenson@lawmed.com.
Thomas is the senior partner at HensonFuerst, PA attorneys, where he leads the Personal Injury and Catastrophic Injury Divisions of the firm. He spends much of his time on safety education and injury prevention, especially for children and in the cycling context. Thomas serves on the Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina, and was appointed by the Governor to serve on the North Carolina Brain Injury Advisory Council, whose duties include advising the Governor and the Legislature regarding brain injury issues, as well as promoting and implementing injury prevention strategies across the State. Thomas loves cycling, especially with his wife, Terry, and son, Alex.