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At the scene of an automobile accident, those involved are often unsure of what details are important and should be documented and what is not necessarily helpful.

The answer: pretty much everything is important.

Photographs help create an accurate view of the crash scene, road conditions, and damage to vehicles. Fortunately, most people now carry a cell phone, which can be used to take high-quality photographs with a great degree of detail at basically no extra cost.

Documenting with Photographs

There are some specific accident-related details that photographs should be used to document, including:

  • Vehicle damage – any obvious damage should be photographed, and pictures of each corner of the vehicle as well as the front, rear, and each side should be taken, and a broader view that includes the street layout. Close up photographs of damage set next to a point of reference like a coin or rule, can further document the degree of damage. Be sure to photograph the license plates, VIN numbers, and any interior damage, deployed airbags, and seatbelts.
  • Vehicle positions – the positions of all the vehicles immediately following the crash. If you can, try to include streetlights, signs, and other landmarks that might help investigators understand the location of the vehicles after the impact. Photographs of debris, strewn vehicle parts, and skid marks can also help to recreate an accident scene.

But before you take any pictures, make sure to take care of any injuries and safety concerns at the accident scene. To respect the privacy rights of others, don’t take photographs of anyone who was injured or is deceased as a result of an accident, since most or all of the photographs taken will likely be transmitted to the insurance company for claim processing purposes.

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