Accident Photography: Taking Photos after a Car Accident

Reviewed by Louis Patino, JD, DC

Louis Patino, JD, DC
A former U.S. Army Combat Medic, Dr. Louis Patino is a distinguished attorney recognised by Top Attorneys of America, Expertise, and the American Institute of Trial Lawyers. He has a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Southern University and a Doctor of Chiropractic from Parker College of Chiropractic.

accident scene photography

After being in a car accident, taking photos will likely be the last thing on your mind. You’re probably a little shaken or even attending to your injuries, so why stop to take a picture? But accident photography can prove vital if your accident wasn’t your fault and you want to prove it — whether for your insurance claim or to recover compensation for your injuries from the at-fault party.

In this blog post, we explain why you should take photos after a car accident and what to focus on, and we also provide some tips to make sure the images you take support your claim as effectively as possible.

Learn which photos are most relevant to your personal injury claim and get advice if you didn’t take photographs immediately after your accident. You could still recover substantial compensation. Book a free case review with our McAllen and San Antonio car accident lawyer to explore your options.

Should You Take Photos after a Car Accident?

You might not think you’ll need photos to prove what happened in a car accident, especially when police officers will arrive and compile their observations into a crash report.

But taking photos can back up your version of events and provide insight into what happened. When you want to file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for your injuries, it can often be a case of your word against the other party’s. Even if another driver is clearly liable because they crashed into the back of your car at 90 miles per hour, they’re probably not going to admit it. In this case, the extent of the damage to your vehicle can indicate another vehicle crashed into you at a dangerous speed.

Taking photographs can also help refresh your memory later on. Being in a car accident is a traumatic event. Add to that the initial shock, confusion, and adrenaline you experience in the aftermath, and it’s not surprising your recollection may be a little fuzzy weeks or even months afterward. Changing your story or misremembering events can harm your claim, even if it’s unintentional, so photographic evidence provides irrefutable proof of what happened, even if you don’t remember all the details.

Finally, accident photography also allows you to document your injuries. This can prove vital in a personal injury claim, especially if your injuries get worse or you need ongoing medical attention at significant cost.

Let’s say you cut your leg during a car accident. Your adrenaline is rushing, and you’re not in pain, so you forget to mention it to the police officer at the scene. Later, you discover you have nerve damage, which results in loss of function. Without proof that you cut your leg in the car accident, the other party may argue you were injured later on — not during the accident. However, if you took a photo of your cut leg after the accident, you can show when you sustained your injury and claim compensation for the long-term impact of the loss of function on your life, such as being unable to drive, work, or play sports.

What If I Don’t Have a Good Camera?

Unless you’re a professional photographer or enjoy photography as a hobby, it’s unlikely you’ll have a fancy DSLR on hand after your car accident. Fortunately, you don’t need one.

Many smartphones have sophisticated cameras that can capture high-quality photographs, but even if you have an older cell phone, one poor-quality photo — as long as you can make out what you’re taking a picture of — is better than none at all.

Improving The Photographic Information

The benefit of taking photographs using your cell phone is that timestamps are coded into the photograph’s metadata, which shows the date and time the photo was taken. This prevents the other side from claiming the images are doctored or were taken at any time other than when the accident happened. If you have location services switched on, your phone will also log where you took the photo, which adds to its credibility.

Not all cameras will have all metadata turned on as standard, but even one or two elements of photographic metadata will improve the quality of the evidence you collect.

Category Information
When Date, Time
Where GPC Location, City, Country
How Device Information, Device Settings
What Description settings, Title, Keywords
File History Modifications, Filters, Cropping

What If I’m Injured After the Accident?

While some people think that only the parties involved in the accident can produce “evidence” as to what happened, this isn’t the case. If you find yourself injured and unable to stand, steady a camera or focus on taking pictures, both passengers and passers-by can do this for you.

In these cases, you can either ask the other person to take the photographs with your cell phone, or ask them to use theirs and send them to you afterwards.

What Should You Take Photos of after a Car Accident?

So now you know the benefits of accident photography, but what should you take photos of?

If possible, you should take several photographs within the following three categories: 

Your Injuries

It’s vital to take pictures of any injuries sustained in your car accident, even if they’re minor or not causing you any pain. A minor cut or burn could get worse over time and lead to bigger problems down the road — including costly medical treatment. Taking photographs immediately gives you proof of when the injuries occurred and their severity, which can be key if you want to claim compensation.

The Scene

You should also take photos of the accident scene. This should include debris, such as broken glass and vehicle parts, and damage to your car. It can also be helpful to document other vehicles involved, but be cautious about confrontation. Some drivers — especially if they caused the accident — may not be too happy about you taking photographs of their vehicles.

You also want to pay attention to any skid marks on the road. These can indicate if a driver was speeding or driving while distracted and had to make a sudden evasive move. As a result, they can help show who is responsible for the crash. Skid marks can fade or be washed away quickly after an accident, so it’s best to take photographs as soon as possible.

In addition to this evidence, document any signs or traffic lights nearby. These may not seem like important details, but they can yield additional factors to help accident reconstructionists and investigators understand how events played out.

For example, you may make a statement that you see another car driving very quickly. You have photographs of skid marks directly leading to that other vehicle, but the driver argues they were within the speed limit. However, you also have an additional photo of a nearby sign showing a speed limit of 65 miles per hour. This can help you prove recklessness on the other driver’s part, as they would have clearly seen the sign but ignored it anyway.

The Surroundings

Accident photography should focus primarily on the accident itself, but you should also document the surroundings. Environmental factors can play a role in crashes and could yield an additional avenue for pursuing compensation. For example, did a fallen tree or other road defect block your path, or did an obscured sign prevent another driver from knowing they had to slow down? In these scenarios, you may also be able to hold the organization responsible for maintaining the road liable for your crash.

You should also take note of the weather — is it raining heavily, or is there snow on the ground? In inclement weather conditions when the road may be slippy or visibility poor, motorists must react accordingly, including using headlights or reducing their speed below the legal limit.

Taking photographs of your surroundings can also yield additional avenues of evidence to support your case. If your photograph shows a nearby building or store with visible surveillance cams, your attorney may be able to retrieve the footage to see if it captured the crash.

Is There Anything I’m Not Allowed to Photograph?

At the scene of a car accident, it’s important to take as many photographs as you can (as detailed above). If anyone attempts to stop you from taking a photograph of the surroundings, details of the other vehicle or similar, respectfully but firmly tell them that you are well within your rights to do so, and it’s important to document properly so any insurance claims are fair for both parties.

While capturing accident photographs is crucial, it’s important to remember that your safety and the safety of others should always come first. Avoid obstructing traffic or creating further hazards while taking photos. Additionally, respect the privacy of individuals involved in the accident and refrain from taking unnecessarily intrusive photos, especially if the other party is injured or suffering from shock.

Photographing People

As long as your pictures aren’t intrusive, try to photograph everyone who was involved in or witness the car accident. This includes third parties, the drivers, any first responders, and passers-by who stop to look. These details are often useful for investigators if they need to piece together the chronology of the incident.

Top Tips for Accident Scene Photography

Accident photography is a huge factor influencing whether or not you can claim compensation after a car accident and how much you might receive, so you want to make sure the photos you take hold as much weight as possible.

We’ve compiled some top tips to help you take the best photographs to support your case.

There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Photos

In certain scenarios, less is more, but this isn’t one of them. You truly can’t have too many photographs of your accident, and our San Antonio personal injury lawyers can filter through them and determine which ones are most relevant to your claim.

Get Up Close…

The devil is in the detail, so don’t be afraid to get up close when taking photographs. Of course, you should exercise caution when taking pictures of the wreckage or other vehicles and only do so if it’s safe. Otherwise, use your camera’s zoom function to get close-up photos of debris or injuries.

…but Go Wide Too

If you zoom in too closely, you will literally miss the bigger picture. Having photographs of the overall scene can help show perspective and context, such as how far apart vehicles are located. You should also take wide shots of your injuries. When viewed up close, it can be hard to distinguish an arm from a leg, and clarity and accuracy are vital. If you have a cut on your arm, take a wide shot showing your entire arm, then take a second photograph focusing only on the cut.

Back-up Your Photos

We all know someone who’s spent hours working on a task, only for all that time to be wasted when it doesn’t save or is corrupted. Unfortunately, the same can happen with photographs; only in this case, it can prove far more costly.

Whether you take photographs on your cell phone or a camera, back them up to the cloud or save them to a computer. You can even email them to yourself in a pinch. This way, if you later lose your phone or it gets broken, you won’t lose your evidence.

Do Videos Also Count?

Absolutely! If you’re able to take a video showing a walk-around of the vehicles and surrounding area, this can often be even more useful than static pictures (although it’s important to get both types where possible).

Videos can often capture nuances in the surroundings such as weather (especially wind) and additional damage that may become apparent from the sound of vehicles being moved away, such as an oil leak.

Can I Show Others My Accident Photography?

It is well within your right to show friends or family the pictures (or videos) from the accident. However, it is not advisable to post anything from the scene on social media. This is because insurance companies and legal teams of liable parties often look for these as part of their “discovery” process. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for such photographs to be used against you to reduce or deny liability or indicate you weren’t as hurt or distressed as you claim.

Of course, if you hire a personal injury lawyer to help with your case, they will need to see the evidence you have collected.

Car Accident Photography: Wrapping Up

Taking photographs after a car accident may be the last thing you want to do, but it can make the difference between securing a huge settlement and not being able to claim at all. Following these simple accident photography tips ensures you have all the evidence you need to take legal action and recover the compensation you’re entitled to.

If you’re in a car accident and you’re not sure if you have a claim, speak to our dedicated car accident lawyers in San Antonio and McAllen. We offer a free, no-obligation case review so you can find out if you have a claim. To get started, fill in the contact form or call 855-LAW-NINJA.

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