Tips for Taking Car Accident Scene Photos

Photos are the best way to paint a picture of the scene.

Being involved in a car accident is stressful enough without having to worry about sticking to a to-do list afterward. But there are a number of things you can do in the immediate aftermath of a traffic accident that will go a long way toward protecting your legal rights in any resulting lawsuit or insurance claim. One key step is to take photographs of the accident scene and other details surrounding the crash (after you have made sure everyone involved in the accident is okay, of course). Read on to learn more.

How Photographs Can Help

Taking photographs of the scene and other details surrounding the crash is a great way to preserve evidence. The photos will come in handy when you and the other driver deal with your respective insurance companies, and pictures of the accident scene will also be a big asset if a personal injury lawsuit is filed as a result of the accident. The photos can be used to help paint a picture of the location of the accident (i.e. an intersection), driving conditions at the time, the position of the vehicles, collision points, and a host of other accident details. Pictures like these can also help refresh your memory down the road when you're speaking to the insurance company or testifying in a deposition or in court.

Any Camera Will Do

Keep in mind that you're simply trying to preserve evidence, not win any photography awards. So any type of device that takes pictures will suffice -- you don't need to carry a camera in your glove compartment. Cell phone and PDA cameras have become increasingly sophisticated and often have a flash built in. A disposable camera is also an option. Whatever sort of camera or device you're using, if it has the ability to time/date stamp photos, be sure you have that function enabled.

Capture the Details

When you're thinking about what to photograph, it may not be obvious which details of the accident will become important later on. So the more pictures you can take, the better. If you have a disposable camera and/or a device with limited storage capacity, choose your photographs carefully. But, if you can take a lot of pictures and then sort through them later, that's the best way to go.

Try to take pictures of:

  • your car, and the damage it sustained
  • the other cars involved in the accident, and the damage they sustained
  • any skid marks
  • any vehicle parts, shattered glass, or other debris that may have fallen onto the road
  • the accident site (i.e., the intersection, parking lot, or other location)
  • the environment/weather conditions, and
  • any visible bodily injuries to you, your passengers, and other parties (if feasible and consented to, of course). 

Take Photos from Different Angles and Distances

It's best to take a wide variety of photos. Try to snap photographs from at least three different angles and distances. For close-up photographs, try to take the picture from a distance of one to five feet from the subject. Also take medium distance photographs (from 10 to 15 feet away) and long distance or panoramic photographs (from 20 or more feet away) when it's safe and makes sense to do so.

When taking pictures of vehicles and the surrounding area, try to keep a common landmark in each of the photographs in order to demonstrate distance and scale. Also be aware of the sunlight and weather conditions and how those might affect your photographs, especially those relating to damage to your vehicle. If possible, use different flash intensities, and/or take the same photographs with and without flash. Finally, if you are using a camera, experiment with your settings and features. You may have the ability to take wide-angle photographs or utilize other innovative options that could better capture details. 

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