Learning How to Photograph Car Accident Scenes

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®https://res.cloudinary.com/quotellc/image/upload/insurance-site-images/ciccom-live/41b5e36b-joel-ohman.jpg

UPDATED: Dec 31, 2016

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Here's what you need to know...

  • You will want to be sure you have a good quality camera so your images are not fuzzy
  • Take photos of the entire scene to gain perspective
  • Take pictures of any contributing factors
  • Photograph any damage outside and inside the vehicle

Where car accidents and insurance claims are concerned, today’s technology has provided us with several great tools we can use after a crash.

One of those tools is the digital camera. With photos of the accident scene in hand, policyholders are much more likely to be able to make a case to their insurance companies for an adequate payout.

Without pictures, insurance companies are left with incomplete police reports and the verbal testimonies of those involved.

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While taking accident photos is a great way to help boost your claim, there are some important things you need to know to do it right.

Used effectively, a digital camera can be a great tool when filing a claim. Done incorrectly, you may not get the results you’re after. The following hints and tips should be very helpful in teaching you how to take car accident photographs.

The Quality of the Camera Matters


Not all digital cameras are created equal; some take better pictures than others.

Ideally, you want a digital camera that will take the clearest and most detailed pictures possible.

Often, it is those little details that can make or break a claim. Don’t be so cheap that your pictures turn out fuzzy and indiscernible. Look for a camera that can provide you with excellent quality images.

As a general rule, you want a camera with a minimum resolution of two megapixels. Today’s digital cameras are fairly inexpensive, so you should to be able to find one you can live with.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to have to worry about batteries, memory cards, and other issues related to a standalone camera, you can instead opt for a cell phone with a built-in camera.

Furthermore, going with a camera-equipped cell phone ensures you’ll almost always have it with you when you’re driving.

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The External Accident Scene

When you take photos of your accident scene, start with the external portion first. Step far enough away from the wreckage as possible in order to include the entire accident scene and some of the surrounding area.

Take photos from this distance at several different angles.

This ensures that you get the most information possible for your insurance company to look at. Include in these photos anything significant that may have contributed to the accident, such as inoperable traffic lights, construction vehicles, etc.

With the overall scene caught on camera, move next to details like:

  • external car damage
  • skid marks
  • road damage
  • property damage

These details don’t have to be photographed from a long distance away. In fact, the closer you can get without losing the perspective of the scene, the better.

The Internal Scene


Next you want to take photos of your car’s interior, paying special attention to parts that are damaged. If you sustained injuries that caused you to bleed, be sure to take pictures of any bloodstains in your car.

While this may sound unappealing it may also be pivotal in a future civil claim.

Along with interior car damage you also want to photograph any damage to property inside the car.

For example, if you were transporting a laptop computer in your back seat, and the accident caused damage, you need to take a picture of it. Just be careful not to disturb it until after the police have taken their report.

At that point, you can pull it out of the car (after taking pictures of it inside the car) and photograph it in more detail.

Don’t Forget to Photograph Injuries

If you or anyone else sustained any injuries in the crash, make sure to take pictures of that too. Unrelated victims may be unwilling to allow you to take pictures, so don’t force the issue with them.

Otherwise, make sure you get close-up pictures of all injuries regardless of how minor they are. These pictures will be additional evidence that provides a measure of proof for medical reports.

If there’s been a fatality, taking a picture is probably not a wise idea. It could be construed by the family of the victim as being insensitive and inappropriate.

In this case, the police and the coroner’s office will have photographs of their own that can be utilized by your insurance company and any courts that might get involved.

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