In auto accident cases, seeing is definitely believing. Often, one picture can do more good or harm to a case than hours and hours of witness testimony. This is also true when negotiating with insurance adjusters. The more photographic evidence of car damage and bodily injury they receive, the more likely they are to offer higher amounts of money to settle your case. With the prevalence of smart phones and camera phones, there is no excuse for not taking photographs to document your auto accident. If you are ever in an accident, you should immediately take photographs of three things.
Photograph the Car That Hit You.
First, you should take photographs of the car that hit you. This should always be done FIRST because you never know how long the other driver will remain at the scene. It might feel a little awkward taking photographs of someone else’s car, but it is very important. If the other driver protests, tell him or her that your insurance company has instructed you to take pictures of the scene. Often, this will be your only chance to document the damage to the other car. The other driver’s insurance will not allow you or your attorney to view any of its own photos until after a lawsuit is filed. This is because in a rear-end accident, the front of the rear car almost always shows more damage than the rear of the front car. The front of a car has more things that can be broken (grill, lights, etc.) than the back of a car, which is usually just a solid plastic bumper. In addition, when the other driver’s insurance company does take pictures of the damage, they will usually have the car cleaned to remove any dirt streaks that may make the damage look worse. They will also take pictures from angles that minimize how bad the damage looks. Thus, you must protect your case by immediately taking pictures of the other driver’s car.
Photograph The Damage to Your Car.
Second, you should take pictures of the damage to your car. If possible (and not dangerous), do this at the scene. When you take the photos at the scene, this removes any argument from the other driver’s insurance company that you may have tampered with your car before taking the photos. The other driver’s insurance company will eventually schedule an “estimate”. This is their opportunity to assess the damage to your car before offering to make any repairs. At the time of the estimate, the representative for the other insurance
company will take multiple pictures. Again, these pictures will be taken from angles that minimize the damage that is shown. In fact, some estimators have been known to carry towels and other cleaning supplies with them so they can try to buff out as many scratches and streaks as possible before taking photos. If you have taken photos of your car at the scene, these photos will help show a jury that the insurance company is trying to trick them into believing there was less damage to your car than there actually was. Your photos will have more credibility because they were taken much more closely in time to the accident than whatever photos the other driver’s insurance company may take.
Take Photos of Your Injuries
Third, you should take photos of any injuries to your body. Visual representations of injuries are much more powerful than simple descriptions. If you notice any bruising or scratches caused by your accident, you should photograph them immediately. Often when we are negotiating with insurance adjusters we will push them to their highest offer and then send them a client’s injury photographs. This automatically triggers an increase in the amount of money (called “reserves” or “authority”) that the adjuster can offer. The insurance company never wants a jury to see injury photos because they prove that the impact of the accident was definitely strong enough to cause injury.
If you are ever in an auto accident, make the simple effort to photograph these three things as soon as possible. Doing so will often increase the amount of money you are awarded at the end of your case.