Taking Pictures at the Scene of an Auto Accident to Use in Your Personal Injury Case

With the increased availability of smartphones, it’s easier than ever to capture the aftermath of an auto accident. With the click of a button you can capture what occurred at the scene of a crash almost immediately after. Photos provide a slideshow of what occurred and can be much more informative than an accident report or witness testimony as they provide vivid details of the accident scene.

Without accident photos, details of the accident are difficult to recall. In some cases, it becomes your word against the other driver’s word. Even with a police report, pictures of the accident scene can be helpful. Photographs that substantiate your claims can strengthen your case and provide your attorney with invaluable evidence that can help you obtain maximum compensation after an accident.

Remember that your safety is always your first priority. If you are injured, do not attempt to take pictures. First seek medical treatment and care for your injuries. Once you have been cleared by a medical professional, you can go back to the scene of the accident and take pictures of the surroundings and any evidence that remains. Or you can ask a family member or friend to snap pictures for you, while you are recovering from your injuries. Never jeopardize your own health simply for pictures.

Why Take Photos?

It’s quite simple—photographs preserve the evidence. They provide a way to substantiate the damages, the severity of the impact, and document injuries. The right photo may help you settle a case without having to go to court. However, if the case does go to litigation, well-taken photographs can be used by an Accident Reconstructionist. This expert can recreate the scene of the accident and provide testimony.

Many accident victims don’t take pictures after an accident, because they believe that only a police report is required. While a police report is vital, they don’t always tell the full story. Reports may miss a traffic light that wasn’t working properly or a road sign that was obscured by shrubbery. Reports also may not take into consideration road conditions that could have greatly contributed to the accident, such as road debris or potholes.

You need to look out for yourself when you are in a crash, so don’t assume someone else is going to take the photos that you need to prove how the crash happened!

What Should You Capture?

If you can, take pictures before the vehicles have been moved. While this isn’t always possible, taking pictures of the accident scene is one of the best ways to help establish liability and protect yourself after an accident. It most certainly doesn’t hurt to take as many photos as you can. However, make sure that you try to capture these details in the photos:

  • All sides of your vehicle (even the undamaged sides if any)
  • All sides of the other vehicle(s) in the crash, especially of the car that hit you
  • Up-close shots along with wide-angle shots
  • Focus on the vehicle’s four corners
  • A shot of the damaged areas
  • Close-ups of point of impact and areas of damage around your vehicle
  • The vehicle’s identifying features like license plate and VIN
  • Interior damage, such as deployed airbags
  • Road signs that provide information, such as speed limits
  • Photos from far away as well as close up so you can see the positions of the vehicles on the roadway
  • Any skid marks you see on the roads
  • Any property damage that occurred
  • Photos that portray the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident
  • Photos of surroundings and any signs that may have been obscured or blocked by overgrown foliage

Also, watch for the reflection of the person taking the photograph when snapping a shot. Avoid capturing the person in the shot. Remember that by taking pictures, you are trying to tell the story of your car accident.

How Should You Take the Photos?

It’s always best to take a variety of photos. Therefore, try taking pictures from different angles and distances. If possible, take close-up photographs from a distance of one to five feet from the car, shots from ten to fifteen feet away from the scene, and long distance or panoramic photographs from twenty or more feet away. This will ensure that you’ve captured the entire accident scene, as well as any other evidence that could help your attorney prove your case. Here are some additional tips for taking photos:

  • Take pictures with a common landmark as this can help demonstrate distance and scale.
  • Be aware of sunlight and weather conditions as those may affect your photos.
  • If possible, use different flash intensities, and/or take the same shot with and without a flash.
  • Take wide-angle photographs if you have the ability to do so.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • If the camera has a date and time stamp function, use it.
  • Check to see if there are cameras around the scene of the accident. For example, nearby businesses or governmental offices may have outside cameras.
  • If there are skid marks or other remnants of the collision, don’t forget to photograph these as well. Also, take be sure to take head-on and side-view pictures.
  • If there were witnesses to the car accident find out where they were and take photos from their point of view.

Post-Accident Checklist

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s difficult to know what to do next. This checklist can help you remember all of the necessary steps to take after an accident, so you can protect yourself and your ability to file a claim:

✔ Call 911
✔ Offer aid to injured passengers
✔ Seek medical help
✔ Call your insurance company
✔ Request a tow
✔ Gather names and information of eye witnesses
✔ Take pictures of:

        ✓ the accident damage to your vehicle
        ✓ property damage
        ✓ your injuries
        ✓ contributing factors such as road conditions, obscured traffic signs, etc.
        ✓ landmarks around your accident
        ✓ skid marks, accident debris, fallen branches, etc.
        ✓ accident report information
        ✓ license plate info of other driver

✔ Contact an attorney

Above all, please put your safety first following an accident. Do not put yourself in danger just to capture a photo of the scene. Also, before doing anything, make sure you call the police and assess any injuries you have sustained. If you need immediate medical attention, that must be your priority. Other people at the scene could help by taking photos for you, and police responders will also help document what happened.


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