UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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When you are involved in a car accident the best way to protect your legal rights is to being gathering evidence of the accident as soon as possible after it occurs. This allows you to be prepared in case a personal injury claim or property damage claim needs to be made against the other driver. Gathering evidence also helps provide you with evidence should the other driver make personal injury or damage claims against you.
Here are some ways that you should try to gather evidence after a car accident has occurred.
Photographs of the Scene
If you are not injured and you are capable, you should begin taking pictures of the accident immediately after it happens. If you have a camera or your phone available, make sure that you take pictures of the entire accident scene.
Go to different areas of the accident scene and take pictures from different angles. Take close ups of the damage. You should also take pictures from far away. You do not know what angle will best show the accident scene. A good rule of thumb is to take pictures from several different areas. In this case, more is better as the more documentation that you can provide the better your chances are to prove your case should a claim be made.
If there are skid marks from either vehicle make sure to take pictures of them. This is a time when you want to shoot from further away in order to show a larger view of these marks.
You will also want to take pictures of any traffic control devices such as stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights, etc. that are located at the scene. You want to take clear shots of who had the light or the stop sign.
If you think that a person’s view of the accident is relevant, make sure that you take pictures from that view. For example, if the other driver mentioned that they did not see you coming, take photos that show how far back the driver was to have a view of the accident.
Remember, during car accident litigation a picture is really worth a thousand word. If the other driver has said that they did not see the accident location, but the photo shows that they had a clear view of the accident location for up to 500 feet, the other driver will likely find it difficult to win the case because the jury and the insurer will believe that they could not have been paying attention.
Photographs of Vehicles Involved
It is also important to take pictures of all of the vehicles that were involved in the accident. You want to photograph the damage from close up as well as from far away. The photos of the damage can help insurers and juries determine how the accident happened. These photos also provide a bit of evidence about how fast the cars were traveling and which driver was at fault. Make sure that you take good pictures of the damage to all of the vehicles as this evidence can be invaluable.
Getting contact information from the other driver as well as any witnesses is extremely important. Do not let the other driver leave the scene of the accident without providing you with his name, phone number, as well as insurance information if possible. If the driver does leave the scene of the accident make sure that you do all that you can in order to get their license plate number.
If the driver claims that they do not have their driver’s license with them or their insurance card, ask them for another document that shows their name and address such as their registration or even a credit card.
Witnesses who were not involved in the accident can be very important in an automobile accident case. If you see any other pedestrians or drivers who were in the area when the accident occurred try to obtain contact information such as their names and phone numbers.
If the police are called to the scene of the accident an official police report will be prepared. These reports are public records in every state and you have the right to go to the police station in order to obtain a copy of this report. In any type of car accident case you should make sure that you obtain a copy of the police report for your records.
In most states the police officer who writes the report for the accident will include a conclusion of who they believe to be at fault in the accident. Even though the officer typically does not witness the accident, their conclusion of who caused the accident is important evidence. Insurers want to know what the reporting police officer believed about how the accident occurred.
Additionally, you have the right to obtain any type of accident report that is filed by the other driver involved. Many states require drivers who were involved in an accident to file reports with the DMV. These reports can be helpful to prove liability in any type of car accident claim. There are times when a driver says one thing in an accident report, but says something different to the police officer. You can use these reports to expose inconsistency by the other driver. This can be a good way to help your claim.
When involved in a car accident of any type, no matter how minor, it is important to begin gathering evidence right away. If you cannot take photos of the scene or of the damage to the vehicles, call a friend or family member who can. Photos of the scene can be extremely important evidence when making liability claims.
In addition, make sure to obtain copies of all the reports that are filed regarding the accident. These official reports can help make your case against the other driver.