How to Take Photos of a Car Accident Scene for a Successful Insurance Claim

Photos and video are an important part of a successful auto insurance claim. Pictures from the scene can boost your overall compensation.

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

Vehicle crashes on U.S. highways injure millions of people and cost more than $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. Photographs taken at the car accident scene are powerful evidence that will help you get maximum compensation.

How to Take Good Car Accident Photographs

The first priority after an accident is to call 911 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.

If you can safely move about, take as many pictures as you can before police and paramedics arrive. 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.

With that said, don’t risk your health or safety in order to take pictures. Aggravating your existing injuries, or incurring additional injuries won’t help your claim.

Capture the Entire Accident Scene

Use either the video function or repeated still shots as you turn slowly, getting the entire scene. Then start taking as many individual pictures as you can from different angles. Don’t stop to check the photos, just keep clicking. You only have a short amount of time.

Car 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.

The more pictures you take of the scene and surrounding area, 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.

Photograph the Vehicles

  • Photograph 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 vehicle 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.
  • 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 their 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 and road 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 videos 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 emergency medical services. 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 after the crash and throughout your recovery.

Protecting Your Claim After the Crash

Get Immediate Medical Care

If you weren’t taken directly to the hospital from the accident scene, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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.

You can see your personal doctor, or go to the hospital emergency room or urgent care center. Tell the doctor you were in a car accident and describe any symptoms you’re experiencing, no matter how small. The treatment record and doctor’s note will directly link your injuries to the accident.

Continue Taking Photos of Your Injuries

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

When you have good photographic evidence showing graphic injuries, the insurance company won’t want those pictures to end up in court. With injury photos, you will be in a much stronger position for negotiating a fair settlement.

Why Accident Scene Photos Are Important

Police officers may take a few photos after the accident, but not until they have secured the scene, arranged for emergency care, and talked to the drivers. In busy metropolitan areas, the police may only take pictures at the scene of the accident when fatalities occurred.

It’s up to you to gather the evidence to support your claim, if you are physically able to do so.

Photographs and videos taken right after your 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.

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.

Make the Insurance Adjuster Take You Seriously

Taking good car accident photos and using them along with the police report and 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.

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 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. They vividly illustrate the accident scene as it existed, even if occupants of the other car change their story later.

Get Help With Serious Injury Claims

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.

Car accident attorneys offer free consultations, meaning there’s no cost to find out what a good attorney can do for you.

Video: How to Take Car Accident Photos

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>