Steps to Take After a Car Wreck
Most drivers don’t know what to do if they are in a car crash. This is because most drivers think they will never be in a car crash. But the statistics showing the average driver’s likelihood of being in a motor vehicle accident suggest that everyone should know what steps to take immediately after a car wreck and what mistakes to avoid that could hurt your chances of filing a successful insurance claim. Knowing what to do after a car crash is critical because the more you drive, the more likely you are to be in an accident.
Statistically, for the average driver, there is a 1 in 366 chance of being involved in a car crash for every 1,000 miles of driving. According to Esurance, 77% of drivers have been in at least one car accident. If you obtain your driver’s license when you are 16 years old, you likely will have a car accident before you reach age 34. The average driver can expect to be in 3 to 4 accidents over the course of their lifetime and should expect to file an insurance claim once every 17.9 years as a result of a car accident.
To file a successful insurance claim after a car crash, you must show that another driver was at fault for negligently causing the accident and that you suffered property damage or injuries as a result of the accident. Although you likely will need an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate with an insurance company for a fair settlement, the best evidence to demonstrate fault and prove the nature and extent of your damages is by taking photos at the scene of the accident.
Why Is Taking Car Crash Photos Important?
Taking relevant photos at the scene of an accident can help you paint a picture of what happened when the accident occurred and piece together evidence of who was at fault. It also can help you negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company if the photos show the nature and extent of your property damage and physical injuries.
Taking photos at the scene is important, but before you start snapping pictures on your smartphone, there are two things that are even more important to do first:
- Make sure you and others involved in the crash are not seriously injured. The most important thing immediately after an accident is your safety and the safety of others involved in the accident, as well as other drivers on the road who will approach and pass the accident scene. No matter how slight or significant the impact of your collision was, the first thing you should always do is determine if you have any serious injuries. If not, check the condition of other drivers and passengers who were involved in the accident. If you or anyone else at the scene needs immediate medical attention, call for an ambulance or rescue services.
If no one is seriously injured, determine if it is safe to move all the vehicles involved in the crash from the roadway. Other vehicles on the road will be approaching the scene. If you can safely move your vehicle off the road, do so. If it is too dangerous, leave your vehicle where it is until help arrives. Always stand away from the road after the accident. There may be glass, broken car parts, and other debris from the accident in the area that could still injure you if run over by continuing traffic.
- Call the Police. Even if no one is injured and you have safely moved your vehicle from the road, the next thing you should do is call the police. You want assistance at the scene as soon as possible. When the police arrive, they will take control of the area to ensure safety on the scene. They also will interview everyone involved, including any witnesses who may have seen the accident. They will record everyone’s contact and insurance information and will make a police report.
Once you are sure that you are not seriously injured and have contacted the police for assistance, if it is safe to do so, use your cell phone to take photos at the scene while you wait for the police to arrive—even if you think you were partly at fault. Your cell phone will preserve evidence that may be relevant to your case but that you may not recall later. Your car crash photos at the scene will be the first, and perhaps most important, pieces of evidence that you collect in your post-accident journal to support your claim for compensation.
In addition to the police report and eyewitness testimony from any witnesses who observed the accident, the photos you take at the scene will be the best evidence of what circumstances may have caused the accident, the resulting property damage to your car, and any immediate injuries you may have suffered in the crash.
It is not unusual for victims of car accidents to be a little rattled or even traumatized after a car crash. Not only might you be injured, but you may be frightened, nervous, confused, and disoriented. You may not know or remember exactly what happened when the accident occurred. Later, it may be difficult to recall even the simplest facts about the accident. If you can’t remember what happened, it is very difficult to prove your claim for damages. But photos you take at the scene will serve as evidence of the circumstances existing at the time of your accident, which may be helpful to your case.
Without photos, the insurance company likely will do everything it can to discredit your statements about the accident and the nature and extent of your injuries. But your attorney will use photos you take at the scene to make sure you receive fair compensation for your damages. The insurance company will be more likely to settle your case fairly if it is not just your word against the word of the other driver but, instead, you have photographic or video evidence that supports your claims. If the insurance company still does not want to negotiate fairly, your attorney will use your photos to support any future litigation that may be necessary.
What Photos Should I Take at the Accident Scene?
With your camera or cell phone, try to take pictures that may be relevant and helpful to your attorney in proving fault and damages.
What Car Crash Photos Are Relevant to Fault?
To prove that the other party was at fault, you must show that what the other party did was negligent, which means that they failed to adhere to the normal rules of the road that all drivers must adhere to so that everyone on the road is safe. There are certain things you can take pictures of that may be relevant to proving fault, such as:
A broad overview of the entire accident scene
In general, try to take pictures of the scene of the accident so that you can see the entire surroundings in each direction. You can take pictures from a short distance away to get the full scope of the accident scene, and you can take individual pictures of the scene from each angle or direction. If safe to do so, stand at the point where the collision actually occurred and, from the perspective of the collision point, take pictures that will present a full, panoramic view of the scene. This will depict things in every direction that may be relevant determining what may have contributed to your accident and who may be at fault.
Car accidents can be traumatic. If you are in a serious car accident, it may be something that you never forget for the rest of your life. Yet, it is not uncommon after an accident to forget many of the details about your accident that may be relevant to proving fault. One such example may be the weather conditions at the time of your accident. You may be so startled and shaken after an accident that you never notice that the road was wet because of a light drizzle, or that there was a strong glare from the sun at that time of day. Because accidents happen so suddenly and there is so much confusion immediately after the accident, it may never occur to you to make note of a fog that had settled near the road, making it difficult to see the street signs clearly. Perhaps you didn’t realize that there was a patch of ice in the intersection. But pictures taken at the scene may reveal that the weather may have played a part in causing the accident.
Traffic signals or signs
Pictures of the accident scene may show that a traffic signal was not functioning properly or that a stop sign was covered by trees. Taking a picture of a “One Way” or “No Left Turns” sign may prove that the other driver was at fault based on the direction their car was facing at the time of the accident.
Sometimes the condition of the road may be an indicator of what caused the accident. Pictures of the road conditions may reveal that there was debris or a large pothole in the road that caused the other driver to swerve into your lane. The length of the skid marks left on the street may be used to prove that the other driver was speeding just before they collided with your vehicle. Photographing wet leaves covering a sharp curve in the road may be consistent with your claim that the other driver skidded into your lane when making the turn.
Any conditions or circumstances existing at the time of the accident may be relevant to determining what happened and why the accident occurred. You might think that it was your faulty break lights that caused the other driver to rear-end your vehicle at the intersection and that you are entirely to blame for the accident. But when it is revealed later that the other driver had no windshield wipers on their vehicle, your photo of the light snow falling at the time of the accident may help to prove that the other driver’s inability to see clearly contributed to causing of the accident. If you can show how hard it was snowing when the other driver struck your vehicle, it will have a greater impact than simply saying that the other driver could not see through their front windshield because it was snowing.
Even if you think things like the weather or road conditions are not relevant to who was at fault for the accident, take pictures of the entire scene of the accident. Your attorney will be able to decide what is relevant to proving fault and what isn’t. Also, don’t be shy about taking as many pictures as you can. It is much better to have an irrelevant picture that you don’t need than it is to need a relevant picture that you don’t have.
What Car Crash Photos Are Relevant to Proving Damages?
Just as there are car crash photos that are relevant to proving fault, there are specific car crash photos that are relevant to proving damages. These include photos of:
All vehicles involved in the crash.
Be sure to take plenty of photos of your vehicle, as well as any other vehicles involved in the crash. Take photos that show the entire vehicle from all angles—front, rear, left, and right side. Also, be sure to take close-up pictures of any specific damage to your vehicle that may have resulted from the accident. This could include:
- Broken pieces or parts
- Damage to fenders
- Broken windows
- Scratches in the paint
- Bent tires or rims
- Deployed airbags
- Damaged interior
All of these damages depreciate the value of your vehicle and will be an expense to fix. If the other driver was at fault in causing these damages, you may be compensated for all of your expenses to repair or replace all the damage. The best way to prove to the insurance company the full extent of all your damages is to have clear, detailed photos of each part or area of the car that was damaged. The insurance company will have a difficult time arguing that your front bumper could have been repaired instead of replaced if you can present a photo of your bumper clearly showing the full extent of the damage.
Other damaged property.
You also should take photos of any other property that was damaged or destroyed in the accident. Any personal property that was inside the car and was damaged in the accident, such as a computer, laptop, package, or infant car seat, can be reimbursed.
In addition to being compensated for your property damage, you may be compensated by the driver responsible for the accident for any injuries you sustain in the accident. Although some injuries, like internal or delayed injuries, may not be apparent in a photo, be sure to take clear and close-up pictures of any and all obvious physical injuries, such as:
- Superficial scrapes or abrasions
- Cuts from broken metal or broken glass
- Any part of your body that is bleeding
- Lumps or cuts on your head
It may not be possible to take photographs of much more serious injuries, like dislocated or broken bones, deep wounds, or skull fractures. Do not put yourself in any more danger or risk addition physical injury by trying to take pictures if you are seriously injured. Instead, you should remain still and wait for appropriate medical attention. If you have serious or internal injuries, you will be able to obtain x-rays, cat-scans, MRIs, and other images of your injuries at the hospital and in your medical records, which also can be used as evidence to prove damages.
Licenses, insurance cards, and other identifying information.
If you are not seriously injured and you exchange insurance information with the other driver, take a photo of their driver’s license and insurance card, or any other identifying or relevant information that they voluntarily provide you. This will avoid any mistakes that may occur when writing down names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, or insurance policy numbers.If the other driver is seriously injured or angry, confrontational, uncooperative in exchanging information, do not push the issue. Avoid any discussion with the other driver until the police arrive. The police will take the other driver’s statement and obtain all relevant identifying and insurance information that you will need.
What are Some Tips for Taking Car Crash Photos?
Here are some tips to consider for taking car crash photos that will make the task easier and more effective for supporting your personal injury claim.
Take clear, simple pictures.
Although car crash photos are important, they do not have to be of professional photographer quality. Just take standard cell phone pictures that are clear (not blurry) and represent the actual conditions at the scene of the accident.
Don’t enhance or filter your photos.
Most versions of camera phones include options to filter, color, shade, or set specific lighting when you take pictures. You also can edit, crop, or alter photos when you save them to your phone. But you will not be entering your car crash photos in any art contests—you may be entering them into evidence in court. Just take normal, natural pictures without any special enhancements or edits.
Include a common landmark for context.
If possible, when taking photos at the scene of the accident, try to include a common landmark or fixture in each picture (or in as many pictures as practical). Having a common item in several pictures provides context for individual pictures in terms of space, distance, and direction relevant to the landmark.
Include a familiar reference for size and scale.
When you see television shows about police investigations or crime-solving programs that focus on physical evidence collected at crime scenes, you often see photos of evidence with other common, familiar items next to them, such a ruler, dollar bill, pencil, or paper clip. Placing such items next to an object when photographing the object helps the viewer to determine the size, length, or scale of the object by comparing it to the familiar item. For example, if you photograph an unfamiliar piece of metal that broke off your car or take a close-up picture of a scratch in the paint of your car, someone viewing the photo may not easily be able to tell the size of the metal or the length of the scratch. But by placing a familiar object with a recognizable or identifiable size or length, such as a dollar bill, pencil, or penny, the viewer can easily approximate the size or scale of the unfamiliar object by comparing it to a familiar object. So, to demonstrate the length of a scratch or the scale of a dent in your car door, hold a penny, paperclip, or other familiar object next to damage you are photographing. It will help the insurance adjuster or the court understand the nature of the damage that they are seeing in the photograph.
What If I Can't Take Photos at the Accident Scene?
If you are injured in the accident or feel dizzy, shaky, nauseous, disoriented, or simply frightened immediately after the crash, do not risk your health or put yourself or others in danger by trying to take photos. Instead, you might ask a passenger or friend, who is not injured, compromised, or traumatized, to use their cell phone to take some pictures of the scene and your vehicle.
According to Statista, there are currently 7.26 billion people who use cell phones. That is 91.54% of all people on the planet! If you don’t have your phone or cannot take photos yourself because of your condition after the accident, the odds are that a witness who is present or anyone who gathers at the scene after the accident will be carrying a cell phone that can take pictures. Simply ask someone at the scene to take photos of the cars and the conditions at the scene. If someone is willing, they can easily forward you the pictures that they take for you to use in your case.
If there really is no way for you or someone else to take photos at the scene, return to the scene later when you are able, when it is safe, to take the pictures you should have taken at the scene of the accident. The vehicles may be gone and the weather may be different now, but you can still take photos of the area, intersection, traffic signals, and even road conditions. These can still be useful to you later if the photos represent the area and conditions as they were at the time of the accident.
The Car Accident Attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC Can Help You After a Car Crash
It is important and helpful to take photos immediately after a car crash. Photos paint a clear picture of the conditions that existed at the time of the accident and can present details that you didn’t notice or don’t remember. Car crash photos also help you to convey to an insurance adjuster the true nature and extent of your injuries and property damage. Armed with this photographic evidence, you can:
- Assist your attorney in gathering evidence for your personal injury claim
- Present facts that are relevant to proving fault
- Have more leverage when negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company
- Be more likely to receive a fair and complete settlement for your damages
- Feel confident about litigating your case in court, if necessary
If you have been involved in a car crash and it is safe to do so, take as many pictures as you can immediately after the accident. Then call the experienced Kansas City car accident attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, for a free consultation. We will review each of your photos very carefully and determine which pictures will be relevant to demonstrating fault and proving damages and injuries in any personal injury claim you may have. We will make sure your car crash photos are used properly and effectively to negotiate a fair settlement and help you obtain the maximum compensate that you are entitled to. Call your Missouri and Kansas Car Wreck Lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC, today at 816-249-2101.