If you’ve been the victim of a car accident, photographs can be very effective evidence in your personal injury claim. Even if you were injured in a slip and fall, dog attack, or other incident, you can take photos to help strengthen your case.
In auto accidents, there can be multiple theories of liability. Photos of the accident scene can eliminate doubt and assign liability to the driver truly at fault. Pictures are not easily subject to interpretation. They graphically depict accident scenes as they actually were, not as they are remembered.
What to Do at the Accident Scene
After an accident, the most important thing is the safety of anyone who was injured. Immediately call 911 to report the accident and any injuries.
While waiting for police, begin taking photos of the accident scene. Be sure to engage your camera’s time stamp function. A digital camera is best, but if you don’t have one, your cell phone camera will do the job. You can also record video, but it’s often tough to capture small details with video.
Accident scenes are often cleared by police soon after they arrive. They want to clear the area for the safety of those involved, and so traffic can resume flowing freely. You’ll have to move quickly to collect important evidence of negligence and causation. This is your only opportunity to capture the scene exactly as it was at the time of the collision.
Why Are Pictures so Important?
You can use car accident photos to convince the insurance company of their insured’s negligence (the at-fault driver). Consider your claim from the adjuster’s viewpoint. Think of what you’d want to see if you knew nothing about an accident and had to decide who was at fault.
Accident scene photographs:
- Tell a story of how events progressed in the accident
- Are clear and graphic evidence of property damage and personal injuries
- Serve as reminders you can use to reconstruct the accident scene
Due to the traumatic nature of auto accidents, victims commonly overlook important details. Well-taken photos reveal both obvious and subtle evidence that may have been forgotten, and which may lend strong support to a personal injury claim.
How to Take Effective Car Accident Photos
The more pictures you take at the scene, the better chance a few of them will come out perfectly. Take as many photos as possible. Professional photographers take hundreds of photos during special events, hoping just a few will be perfect. You should do the same.
Keep in mind the following tips when taking photos at the scene:
Begin by taking general photos of the entire scene. Take wide shots from several angles. Don’t worry about details yet. You want to get an overall view of the accident scene. General photos of the scene will set the stage for the more detailed photos to follow.
- Take photos of traffic indicators. Include traffic lights, and yield or stop signs, which can be tied to the at-fault driver’s actions that lead to the accident.
- Photograph cars or other vehicles involved in the accident. Photograph their proximity to the actual accident spot, and to each other. Include enough photos to demonstrate their position at the time of the accident.
- Include reference points. If the at-fault driver failed to yield, try to include the yield sign as the backdrop in a photo of his car. The same goes for a stop sign or other traffic signal ignored by the driver. Also include photos of the closest intersection, or street signs that identify the area where the accident occurred.
- Photograph weather conditions. Include any clouds, rain, or falling snow. Photograph the sun and its position on the horizon. Include night photos of the sky and an illuminated moon. Photos like these can disprove an at-fault driver’s contention weather played a role in the accident.Weather condition photos are more often used as defensive, rather than offensive tools. For example, if the at-fault driver were to claim the accident occurred as a result of wet or icy roads, fog, blinding sun, or a pitch-black night, photos can disprove it.
- Photograph damaged objects. Look for damaged street signs, guardrails, trees, or other stationary objects damaged by the accident.
- Get close-ups of your car’s damage. If the bumper of your car is mangled, photograph it. If the rear quarter panel is dented, photograph that as well. Where possible, frame the shots to include the license plate, to confirm the damage is to your car. Remember to take photos from different angles.
- Closely photograph damage to the other driver’s car. Car accident photos should be as detailed as possible. Include any paint from your car which was transferred at the point of impact. Photograph the license plate to identify the other driver’s car.
- Look for skid marks. Often, a negligent driver will try to avoid the accident by jamming on his brakes right before impact. The length and breadth of skid marks is an excellent identifier. Take close and long range views. Try to show the direction the car was heading, and exactly where the car was when it started braking.
- Look for broken glass and damaged car parts. Check around the site for any debris that came off the cars at the moment of impact. Take photos from close and wide angles to help identify which cars the broken glass and parts came from.
- Include photos that identify the time and date of the accident. You can take a picture of someone else’s cell phone, where the time and date are projected on its screen. Make sure the accident scene is in the frame. Be sure to engage the time and date stamp function on your camera.
- Take photos of participants. It’s important to snap pictures of the at-fault driver and his passengers. Include witness photos as well. Having a visual record of the people at the scene helps you connect faces with statements. Later, this will help avoid confusion about the identity of participants and witnesses.
- Photograph the police officers. If paramedics are dispatched, photograph them and the ambulance. If anyone was put on a gurney and placed inside an ambulance, get a shot of that as well.
- Photograph injuries. Take a visual record of injuries sustained by you, the at-fault driver, passengers, and any injured bystanders. Try to capture graphic images of lacerations, contusions, abrasions, blood, and broken bones.
Take Photos in the Days Following the Accident
You also have opportunities to gather more evidence in the days after the accident…
- Photograph latent injuries. Broken blood vessels sometimes don’t immediately appear as bruises. It may be a day or two after the accident before discoloration and swelling appear. Take photos of injuries that develop later, and add them to your collection.
- Return to the scene. If you only had a primitive cell phone camera with you at the time of the accident, it may be worth it to return to the scene with a digital or other high resolution camera. Photograph the scene again, including the same street signs, damaged objects, and any other remaining evidence.
Taking good car accident photos and using them in conjunction with other evidence indicates to the claims adjuster you’re knowledgeable and motivated. You can help yourself present a compelling case by organizing all your evidence, including accident photos. Your efforts will undoubtedly strengthen your claim, and result in a higher settlement offer.