Nowadays many of us have smartphones (or photo-capable cellphones) and have them at hand most if not all of the time. So it’s not surprising that an increasing number of insureds are submitting auto accident notifications to their insurance companies with at-the-scene photographs of vehicle damage. If you don’t have a smartphone (or photo-capable cellphone) keep a disposable camera in your glove box or console — be prepared for the unexpected.
Insurance companies typically do an in-depth analysis of an accident which requires photos that balance detail and context. For instance, a close-up photo of a damaged fender is necessary but to provide context, an additional wider-angle shot may help determine the angle of impact and the scope of the damage. Here’s some guidance that may help make you smarter about on-the-scene photos so your information may be more useful:
Establish boundaries of crash scene and impact zone. Make sure to photograph every vehicle involved from all angles and the relative position of each to other vehicles. This helps to establish the boundaries of the crash scene and the impact zone.
Broaden the view to include street layout, landmarks, traffic controls, and signage. Try to include pictures that show the vehicle’s position relative to its closest landmark. Details that include these fixed objects can help investigators reconstruct accident events accurately.
Focus on the damage sustained by all the vehicles. Take close-up photos of the damage and broader views for context.
Take shots of the vehicles’ identifying features. Capture license plates, VIN numbers and any other unique, identifying features.
Document roadside debris, strewn vehicle parts and so on. Try to show the relationship of the vehicle(s) to the debris depicted in the image.
Care for those needing medical help first
Most importantly, call 911 immediately if anyone needs medical attention. Take care of safety concerns before worrying about photography. If and when you begin taking photos, be respectful of the privacy rights of others and take care not to share your images on social media sites.