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How to use your smartphone to document a car accident

A car crash happens in seconds, yet its resolution between insurance companies, medical examinations, and mechanical and body work on your car can drag on for months. Memories fade with time, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Taking a few quick pictures immediately after the crash provides further evidence of the damage and helps your memory with visual details likely to be forgotten.

What to do after an accident

After an auto accident, you should immediately check for injuries, call the police so a report can be filed and take thorough notes of any vehicle damage. In addition to these steps, all of which are intended to provide a rounded picture of what happened, it's key to make sure you have your own documentation of what happened. Grab your phone and take your own pictures of the scene.

The police report will typically feature a description of the setting, probable cause and a statement of any damages and injuries as they first appeared. The report is the only documented evidence from the site of the crash, and it may not go into enough detail for your claims. Once it's filed, resolution takes time. The incident happened in a flash and, especially with traumatic injuries, our memories tend to forget the small stuff, which can be huge details when it comes to proving who caused the accident. To remind yourself of what happened that day when your insurer finally responds, you'll want photographic proof that the results were as you describe them.

Here's how to photograph the scene

  • The road

Include any visible ice, snow, water or other hazards on the road. Photograph these from an angle that includes landmarks or street signs near the scene of the accident to show where it happened. Include any broken glass, auto parts or skid marks in the road.

  • The vehicles

You'll want to capture the condition of all vehicles involved. Take multiple photos from all four corners to provide a full impression of the vehicle. Make sure to include license plates whenever possible. Photograph any internal damage immediately, using a timestamp if possible.

  • Any injuries to yourself or a passenger

Injuries change with time, and a photo provides on-the-spot documentation. Continue to take photographs of any injury throughout recovery, ideally using comparable camera angles between photos to show healing and permanent damages. For injured parties, it's helpful to find a healthy photo taken shortly before the crash and to store that with the recovery pictures.

While the smartphone has its place among the hazards of driving in the 21st century, it is also a tool for capturing images that show proof of how and what occurred in a disputed accident. The resolution process for auto accidents hasn't changed between first responders, insurance companies, health experts and automotive repair shops, but cell phone technology allows for proof of the minutia details that can be captured in just a few quick pics.

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