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Documenting Your Claim: Photographs

Pictures are worth a thousand words.  You will use pictures to show the adjuster your injuries, the damage to the cars involved, and the accident scene.  The adjuster may have some of these photographs already.  Sometimes adjusters will already have photos of the cars taken by their investigators or the body shops they are paying to repair the cars.  Even so, you should never count on or rely on them doing so.  Always get your own photos.  Once again it shows the adjuster that you know how to investigate a personal injury claim.

Accident Scene

If liability is disputed, you may want to photograph the scene of the accident.  You will want to take pictures from your perspective and from the other driver’s to show what each was capable of seeing.  If the Insurance Company admits liability, you probably don’t need to take this additional step because the insurance company is not disputing fault.

Even if you elect not to take scene photographs, you should take and edit an overhead satellite image using Google maps.  This will make a nice embedded photograph in your demand package letter.  It will give the overworked adjuster a quick sense of the scene and the accident overall.

Injuries & Scarring

You should take photographs of all bruising, cuts, scrapes, and scars.  Take multiple pictures with different lighting and focus features so that you can get the best possible shot.  For scarring, you should try to take some pictures with a ruler next to the scar.  That way, the adjuster can see the length and size of the scar.

Damage to Cars

You should always take your own photographs of the damage to your car.  Insurance claim investigators are trained to take property damage photographs using angles and shadows to minimize how the damage appears.

TIP:  You should use your camera’s flash even if shooting the pictures in full daylight.  The flash will “fill in” all the little shadows that can occur with natural daylight.  This will bring out lost detail.

The Standard Photographs

You should take at least 8 different pictures of your car.  This ensures that  you document the entire outside of your car at the appropriate angles.  Think about looking straight down at your car and overlaying it with a clock.  You want to take head on shots of each side of your car – pictures at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.  Then you want to take pictures of the four corners – pictures at 2, 5, 7, and 10 o’clock.

Let’s think about it another way just to make sure you visualize it.  If you start with 12 o’clock being the front bumper, you want to take the following 8 pictures moving around the car clockwise:

  1. Front Bumper – Head on.  This is the 12 o’clock.
  2. Front Passenger Side Corner – This angle should get the whole front bumper as well as the fender over the front passenger wheel.  This is the 2 o’clock.
  3. Passenger Side – Head on.  Shoot a picture perpendicular to the passenger side of the car.  This photo should get the entire passenger side of your car.  This is the 3 o’clock.
  4. Back Passenger Corner – This angle should get the fender over the back passenger tire and the back bumper.  This is the 5 o’clock position.
  5. Back Bumper – Head on.  This is the 6 o’clock.
  6. Back Driver Corner – This angle should get the fender over the back driver side tire and the back bumper.  This is the 7 o’clock position.
  7. Driver Side – Head on.  Shoot a picture perpendicular to the driver side of the car.  This photo should get the entire driver side of your car.  This is the 9 o’clock.
  8. Front Driver Side Corner – this angle should get the whole front bumper as well as the fender over the front driver wheel.  This is the 10 o’clock.

If your bumpers are damaged, you may also want to consider breaking down the head on bumper pictures, the 12 and 6 o’clock pictures into 3 for each bumper.  You want to take 1 picture of the entire bumper, 1 picture of the right half of the bumper, and 1 picture of the left half of the bumper.  For example, if you are taking photographs of the front bumper:

  1. Take one photo of the whole bumper that takes up the entire frame of your camera;
  2. Then  from the passenger corner to the middle, zoomed in enough that the 1/2 bumper shot takes up the entire frame of your camera; and
  3. Then take a third photo zoom showing the middle of the bumper over to the driver side corner.

If your other bumper has damage, repeat the process for that bumper as well.

Hidden Damage

In addition to these standard pictures, you also want to look for and photograph any “hidden” damage.  Look inside and underneath the trunk.  Sometimes a back bumper will spring back out making it look like the force of impact was very small.  But, the bumper can transfer the crash energy into the trunk, causing it to buckle or crease.  If you were driving a pickup truck, look at the gap between the bed and the cab.  Sometimes the force of impact will caused the pickup truck bed to twist or move closer to the cab.  Examine the gap to see if it is not uniform or otherwise shows that the bed got moved towards the cab.

Bodyshop Photos

When you take your car to the body repair shop, the shop takes “tear down” photographs of the vehicle as part of their paperwork for the insurance company.  Tear down photographs show your car’s damage as they peel away the parts.  These can be much more persuasive then just your photographs showing the fender damage.  Tear down photographs can show bent steel, bent frames and other deformities that you can argue shows the true nature of the force of impact you sustained in the wreck.

Body shops will usually give you copies of the photographs upon request.  Almost all shops use digital cameras and will have them saved on their computer for emailing or copying to disc.

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