How Accident Scene Photos Can Boost the Value of Your Insurance Claim

Tips for taking car accident photos to help build a successful car insurance claim. Get the compensation you deserve for your property and injury damages.

From parking lot fender-benders to horrific multi-car collisions, accidents happen every day. Most of us can expect to be in three or four car accident during our lifetime.¹

Vehicle crashes on U.S. highways injure millions of people and cost more $242 billion each year.²

Most of those billions of dollars are paid out by insurance companies. The fact is, insurance companies don’t make large payouts on weak claims. You’ll need strong evidence to prove your property damage and personal injury claims.

Photographic evidence is powerful for all kinds of insurance claims, from car accidents to dog bites, but only if you know how to use it.

Why Accident Pictures Are Important

Photographs and videos taken right after an accident can increase the credibility and financial value of your claim. They can also help prove the other driver’s liability for your damages.

Accident scene photos help your claim by:

  • Telling the story of how the accident happened
  • Providing clear and graphic proof of property damage and personal injuries
  • Helping to jog memories 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.

Make the Adjuster Take You Seriously

Taking good car accident photos and using them along with other kinds of evidence shows the claims adjuster you’re knowledgeable and motivated.

Help yourself present a compelling case by organizing all your evidence, including accident photos. Your efforts will strengthen your claim, resulting in a higher settlement offer.

Insurance companies train their adjusters to close claims quickly, for as little money as possible. When you have good photographic evidence, the adjuster won’t want those pictures to end up in court. You will be in a much stronger position for negotiating a fair settlement.

Insurance companies are notorious for making low ball offers to claimants without a lawyer. If you were seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the full value of your claim.

After a car accident, it’s common for both drivers to claim the other person caused the accident. The other driver’s insurance company won’t pay you a dime unless there’s proof their insured was at fault.

Photos of the accident scene can provide evidence of the other driver’s liability by showing that the other driver did something wrong or failed to drive responsibly.

No matter what the other driver says, it’s hard to dispute photographs or video. Pictures are not easily subject to interpretation. Photos vividly illustrate the accident scene as it existed, even if occupants of the other car change their story later.

What to Do at the Accident Scene

Immediately call 911 after a car accident and ask for help. Tell the dispatcher if you or anyone else is hurt, if there are dangers at the scene like leaking fuel or overturned cars, or if there are traffic problems.

Every jurisdiction has different requirements for drivers involved in a crash. Find out your legal responsibilities with our State Car Accident Guides.

If you can safely move about, grab whatever device with a camera you have handy. For most of us, that’s a cell phone. If you have a digital camera with you, by all means use that.

Before the police and paramedics arrive, take as many pictures as you safely can. Start by turning on the time-stamp function and capturing a full 360-degree view of the scene.

Just turn slowly, using either the video function or repeated still shots as you turn in a circle. Then start taking as many individual pictures as you can. Don’t stop to check the photos, just keep clicking. You only have a short amount of time.

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.

Effective Accident Scene Photography

The more pictures you take at the scene, the better chance a few of them will be useful. Take your cue from professional photographers who take hundreds of photos during special events, hoping just a few will be perfect.

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.

Photograph the Vehicles

  • 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.
  • Get close-ups of your car’s damage. If the bumper of your car is mangled or the rear quarter panel is dented, photograph it. Where possible, frame the shots to include the license plate, to confirm it’s your car that’s damaged. 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 broken glass and damaged car parts. Check around for any debris that came off the cars at impact. Take photos from close and wide angles to help identify which cars the broken glass and parts came from.

Capture Important Location Factors

  • 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.
  • 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 street signs that identify where the accident occurred.
  • Photograph weather conditions. Include any clouds, rain, or falling snow. Photograph the sun and its position on the horizon, or the clear night sky and bright moon. Photos like these can dispute the argument that weather conditions like ice or fog caused the accident.
  • Photograph damaged objects. Look for damaged street signs, guardrails, trees, or other stationary objects damaged by the collision.
  • Look for skid marks. Often a negligent driver will try to avoid the accident by jamming on the brakes before impact. The length and width of skid marks is excellent evidence. 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.
  • Include photos that identify the time and date of the accident. Engage the time and date function on your camera. You can also take a picture of someone else’s cell phone, where the time and date are on the screen. Make sure the accident scene is in the picture.

Get Images of the People at the Scene

  • Take photos and video of the other driver and passengers.  Photographs and video can be compelling evidence of intoxication and can capture admissions of fault if your video has sound.
  • Take photos or video of witnesses. If you have permission, try getting witness photos as well. Some witnesses may prefer to record their statement rather than write it down. Having a visual record of the people at the scene helps you connect faces with statements.
  • Photograph emergency responders. Take pictures of  police, fire and rescue workers, fire trucks and the rescue squad. If anyone was put on a gurney and placed inside an ambulance, get a shot of that as well.
  • Photograph injuries. Take pictures of your injuries and injuries to the at-fault driver, passengers, and any injured bystanders. Never get in the way of emergency responders.

Protect Your Claim After the Crash

If you weren’t taken directly to the hospital from the accident scene, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident. You can see your personal doctor, or go to the hospital emergency room or urgent care center.

A delay in medical treatment will seriously undermine your claim. The insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your claim by arguing that your injuries weren’t caused by the crash.

Depending on the pictures you captured at the scene, it may be worth it for you or a trusted friend or family member to return to the scene with a good quality camera. Photograph the scene again, including the same street signs, damaged objects, and any other remaining evidence.

Continue taking photographs of your injuries throughout your treatment and recovery. Pictures of stitches, bruising, swelling, or of you in a hospital bed can be very compelling.

Severe or permanent car accident injuries are high-dollar insurance claims. If you’ve suffered serious injuries or permanent scarring, you have too much to lose by trying to stand up to the insurance company on your own.

A skilled personal injury attorney knows how to deal with the insurance company, the other driver’s attorney, and the courts to help you get the full compensation you deserve. There’s no cost to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Video: How to Take Car Accident Photos

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