Photographs and video recordings can be crucial to the successful resolution of a personal injury claim – if one knows how and what to record

       

      The smartphone – a personal evidence collector

      It almost goes without saying that smartphones have revolutionized not only the way we communicate but also how we interact with reality in general. According to Pew Research Center, a non-governmental research organization, smartphone adoption has doubled in America in the last 6 years, with more than three-quarters of the American public now owning at least one mobile phone[1]. In a survey conducted by the Fact Tank in 2015, 46% of smartphone owners said that they couldn’t live without it[2], while other research shows that consumers in the US now spend on average 5 hours a day on mobile devices[3]. While having a smartphone at one’s side at all times may not always be beneficial or even advisable[4], photo-taking and video-recording capabilities can make them a particularly useful evidence-gathering tool after a motor vehicle accident. How do you collect photo or video evidence after a car crash so that it will be effective in proving fault and obtaining fair compensation? This article explores the dos and don’ts of gathering evidence with a smartphone.

      High-quality but no filters

      While it is true that photographic evidence can really strengthen a personal injury case, care needs to be exercised to ensure that the photograph accurately captures the aftermath of a crash. This means that the quality of the image should be sufficiently high to reproduce all the details. Although it may be difficult to think about such details in a highly stressful situation that a car crash is, it is important for the injured party to check the settings of their smartphone’s camera and adjust the photo quality and resolution to the highest possible limit. Many common photo-taking apps now offer automatic presets and color filters that edit the photo in real time. While such features may be of value when one takes photos for friends or family, they may render the photographic evidence unsuitable for court use. The picture should, therefore, be unedited and present an accurate depiction of reality.

      Recording the right things

      The objects pictured in the photo are as important as the quality of the photograph.  It is advised to take as many pictures as possible and from multiple angles. The photographs taken should include not only close ups of the damage but also wide angle shots capturing the entirety of the vehicle. The injured party usually remembers to photograph the damage to their own car, however, taking pictures of all the vehicles involved in the accident and the surroundings can be helpful as well.  For example, photographs can be used to reconstruct the exact cause and course of the accident and to corroborate the injured party’s version of events. Particularly what particular details are useful to photograph? The pictures should present road signs and other traffic-related features of the scene, brake marks, debris generated by the crash and its position in relation to the vehicles and the places where the cars stopped after the accident. In addition, effort should be made to capture weather conditions at the time of the crash. Smartphone-users whose device has a geotagging option should also make sure to enable location services before starting to gather photo-evidence. The feature will save the geolocation data for each photo taken making them easier to authenticate.

      Not only the outside

      For many, it is probably intuitive to take pictures of the outside of the car after a crash. However, the pictures of the vehicle’s interiors can be equally useful from the perspective of both a personal injury case and a property damage claim.  It could potentially increase the chances of receiving compensation. A property damage claim may be related not only to the damage to the car but also to other valuable items that were being transported in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Similarly, taking photos of any visible bodily damage sustained is also advisable.

      Not only pictures

      While pictures can be extremely helpful in constructing a successful property damage or personal injury claim, it should be noted that photographing or video recording is not the only way to gather evidence after a crash. In reality, to be able to effectively prove fault in a motor vehicle accident, more than just a visual information will be needed. The injured party should not forget to take notes and write down their version of events in as much detail as possible and as soon as possible so that time doesn’t make the memories fade. Of course, a smartphone can come in handy in this situation too. The stress of being involved in an accident may show itself in shaking hands,  making it difficult to actually hold a pen and make a physical note, but a smartphone dictation feature may help. Of course, audio notes should only be taken if the environment is not so noisy that it would make it difficult to hear and comprehend the recording.  Another element of the evidence-gathering process includes seeking witnesses and asking them for their testimony. Before recording it, however, the permission of a witness must be obtained, both in the case of a visual and an audio recording.  The injured party should remember to register personal information of the witnesses and their contact details, as the personal injury case may require that they are called in the future.

      Gathering the evidence is of utmost importance for proving fault in a motor vehicle accident and thus for a successful resolution in a personal injury case. Smartphones and other personal mobile devices offer the possibility to thoroughly record the scene of the accident and the damage sustained. Remember that in a situation as emotionally-charged as a car crash, feelings can easily get out of hand and result in unnecessary escalation. Thus, although each of the parties involved in an accident has the right to gather evidence and is advised to do so, it should be done in a polite and discreet manner

      [1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/

      [2] http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/

      [3] https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/u-s-consumers-now-spend-5-hours-per-day-on-mobile-devices/

      [4] https://www.hughesandcoleman.com/distracted-driving-real-danger/