What to Do if You Are in a Car Accident: Take Photos of the Accident

A picture is worth a thousand words, as the old proverb goes; and no one wants to write that much (especially after a car accident).  Furthermore, a photograph taken on-site has credibility that a narrative by itself could never possess (provided the image hasn’t been taken home and photoshopped) a photograph is a strong piece of supporting evidence.  However, if a photograph is going to help prove your case, it should be not only honest, but strategically taken.  No, this is not an endorsement of misleading trick photography:  it simply means that some things need to be photographed more than others.  The panicked face of another driver does not prove more than a working laugh, but a visual record of, say, those parts of each vehicle that were thrashed, showing where each car made contact with one another.  Photo’s such as these give clues as to what the drivers were doing when the accident occurred and give a general description of what exactly happened. Taking photographic evidence is not the first item of importance on anyone’s mind when people have been injured or at least shaken, but the type of photo evidence listed below could be instrumental in securing an insurance claim that will hasten their complete recovery:

1.  The Surrounding Environment

If it was cloudy, icy, blazing hot, or raining cats outside, you want your photograph to reflect that.  In addition, any obstacles or unsafe circumstances on the road, be they construction equipment, fallen cargo, etc. should be noted.  In cases where the surroundings may have contributed to the accident, other parties besides the other driver may be held liable—the precinct, city, construction company, or whoever failed to fasten their bicycle securely to the back of their vehicle.  Whatever factors may have contributed to the accident should be included in the photographic archive.

2.  The Position of the Automobiles

As mentioned, the final resting places of the cars is indicative of the drivers’ actions.  It may not always be possible to photograph the way the cars are situated before one or both must move out of traffic, but it should be done whenever reasonably feasible to render a complete abstract of the events of the accident.  These pictures should ideally be taken from 4-8 different angles for a round the clock perspective.

3.  The Road

When taking a snapshot of the cars prior to the accident isn’t an option, some indicators of their probable positions exist in the form of whatever pieces of themselves they left in the road—particularly pieces of tire.  Skid marks show where danger was detected and how the driver reacted to it.  However, the total absence of any refuse on the road should not be ignored, either, since an absence of skid marks could mean total inattention to the quadrant whence the other car approached.  Whether the asphalt is coated with tire rubber or smooth as a baby’s head, it should be photographed (again, if this can be accomplished without danger).

4.  Vehicular Damage

Sometimes it will be too dangerous to either leave the damaged cars in place or to walk out into the road to take pictures of the ground.  When this is the case, the places where the cars made contact may still be apparent on the vehicles, themselves.  A crushed nose, scraped paint, or a shattered brake light could all register the points of contact.  (Even when photographs from the last 2 categories have been obtained, taking inventory of brushes, dents, and dings allows you to include them in property damage claims.)

5.  The Position of the Bodies

First, let this much be clear:  no one is suggesting that you should take pictures of an injured person before seeking help.  If you have a phone on hand for picture-taking, it should first be put to use requesting emergency medical care for the victims.  No amount of compensation from insurance is worth the compromised well-being of a passenger/driver.  In fact, it would be perfectly natural to forego this step altogether in serious accidents.  Likewise, one shouldn’t leave an injured person in the road unless it would be unsafe to move them (if they sustained a probable brain/spinal cord injury, for instance).  More likely, photographs in this category will not include the subjects, but blood spills and other indirect indicators that they were there.

6.  The Injuries

Again, photographing injuries should only be undertaken once emergency care is on the way or later.  It can be difficult to take pictures of wounds that have been encased in a cast, but the cast takes precedence over even a thousand words.  Still, pictures do lend support, even in addition to medical records.  Insurance agencies often have their own doctors examine their clients, sometimes to justify offering a lower settlement; every little bit of proof that an injury is as bad as you claim helps.

7.  Safety Systems

Sometimes injuries are caused or worsened by failed safety mechanisms within cars.  Perhaps the air bag didn’t go off as it was supposed to; possibly, the seat belt’s latch failed to hold (or held too tightly).  If there is a device that might have malfunctioned and amplified the effects of the car accident, you should check on it.  When an accident is serious and high-cost, seeking compensation from multiple sources is your best bet for a commensurate settlement. Remembering the listed items (particularly within the scope of the larger list to which this page belongs) is no easy task, especially under duress.  Like so much of the knowledge that goes into driving, it isn’t terribly intuitive until you apply it (and you will hopefully not make a habit of getting into car accidents).  However, occasional familiarization with these suggestions can make you think faster when blindsided by occasion to apply them. To get an idea of what else you need to do if you are in an accident, check out our article, “What to Do If You Are in a Car Accident.”

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Image courtesy of valtercirillo and pixabay. The image is in the public domain.

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