tips for taking photographs

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In car accident cases, this phrase couldn’t be more accurate. Photographs that support a claim are the difference between recovering maximum value and getting a low ball offer.

Immediately after a car accident, it can be chaotic. You may be in pain or in shock. You may be thinking about how to contact law enforcement, what will happen to your car, or how bad your injuries are. Many people do not think to take pictures at the scene and miss an opportunity to change the course of their claim.

At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in car accident injury claims. We have handled countless cases in and around Tampa Bay, Florida. We know firsthand how important photos are to every injury claim. This article will discuss the importance of these taking photographs after an accident and provide valuable information to the public.

Why are Car Accident Photos Important?

During the presentation of a claim to the insurance company or to the jury, photos corroborate the facts of the claim. Not every accident has a witness, so photos can help prove liability. Although insurance adjusters can read the estimates of damage, a black and white estimate does nothing to depict how badly damaged a car may actually be. Because many reports of pain are subjective, photos help prove and explain what occurred to cause the problem. Through photos you are able to relay to others how serious the impact was, where the cars ended up, the looks on the faces of people at the scene, and the extent of the injuries suffered. Photos take away the requirement that people have to recall every detail. They also help people who may not be comfortable speaking in front of others.

Photos can also hurt your claim. I most commonly see this through social media posts. Many of my clients are either tagged or post to social media while they are treating. Photos of them out to dinner drinking and laughing with friends can be destructive to an injury case. It is hard to convince an insurance company or a jury that your life has been badly affected if photos like that exist. Therefore, I advise all of my clients to stay off social media or set their privacy settings to private.

How to Take Car Accident Photos

You don’t need to use a professional camera to get the photos that you need. I actually encourage you to use your phone. Any smartphone will automatically timestamp the photo, which can shut down any later accusations of manipulation.

The general rule of taking photos at the scene of the car accident is the more, the better. You do not have to use every photo you take, so try to cover all of the bases. I recommend that you take a variety of pictures from different angles and distances. For example, when I am taking photos of cars at the office, I always start with a shot of the license plate. I then work my way around the car and get all of the damage. For close up shots, you need a reference, so I put my hand in the shot next to the damage to show scale. I then conclude with a photo of my client (never smiling) standing next to the damaged car.

The following pictures are what you should be aiming to capture:

  • your car, your license plate, and all of the damage including the interior where airbags may have deployed
  • the other cars involved in the accident, the license plate, the damage, and the driver
  • any skid marks
  • any debris left on the ground such as shattered glass
  • a shot of the accident scene and the surrounding roads/intersection
  • any stop signs or traffic control devices
  • the road and weather conditions
  • any witnesses at the scene
  • if the ambulance and police come, pictures of them
  • all visible injuries to you and your passengers

What if I Cannot (Or Did Not) Take Photos at the Scene?

I understand that the above list could be a challenge to obtain especially if you were seriously injured. Obviously, if you were taken away in an ambulance, getting photos at the scene will not be possible. If possible, try to have a friend or family member who reported to the scene take the photos. But, if you were not able to capture these photos at the time of the crash, you can still get valuable photos after the fact. For example, if your car has been badly damaged and has been taken to a tow yard or collision center, go there and take photos of your own. Body shops and collision centers sometimes take pictures, but they are sometimes in black and white and they are not taking the pictures with your car accident injury case in mind. So, I advise all of my clients to do the leg work and get additional photos to be safe.

You also can go back to the accident scene and get any missed shots of the area. I am usually able to get the shots of the location off of Google Earth from my office, but any evidence that a client can gather for me saves me time.

As far as photos of injuries go, those are not as important to be taken at the scene because few, if any, visible injuries heal immediately. I like having clients take pictures of the injuries over time to show the healing process. But, abrasions, cuts, scrapes and seatbelt burns heal quickly and should be captured immediately. If there is any lasting swelling or scarring, those photos are important and must be done correctly. The lighting is important to highlight the scar and some reference should be used in the photo to show the scale. Here’s an example-I represented an 18 yr old kid who was a back seat passenger in a serious rollover car accident. He was not wearing his seatbelt and was tossed about in the back seat. He was young and strong, so he didn’t have serious injuries, but the seat belt buckle somehow scratched him all along his back. He didn’t think much of it and didn’t care that much about the cut. But, I noticed that it healed in a long scar down his back. I had his mom take pictures of his back and they just didn’t capture the scar. So, I had him come in the office, I turned down the lights and used a filter on my phone and the scar was clear as day. Once I sent out the demand in the case, the insurance company paid him $25,000 for that scar. I know had I just used his mother’s photos, the payment would have been much less.

How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help?

Presenting the photos in connection with your claim should only be done by an experienced car accident attorney. Getting maximum value from a claim is not as simple as simply sending off pictures and waiting for a check. A good attorney will explain your accident and your injuries and use the photos to help tell the story. Presenting a detailed demand is the best way for the insurance company to understand how serious the accident was and how much money your case is worth.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a car accident and have questions, we are always available to help. We can help you set up your claim, refer you to medical professionals to treat your injuries, and then recover compensation. At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we have handled countless car accident injury claims. Please contact us for a free consultation.