In the moments after a car accident, there are countless questions running through your mind.
What just happened? Is everyone OK? How badly damaged is my car? Was it their fault or mine?
After stepping out of your vehicle you scan the scene, grab your insurance ID card from the glovebox and call the police. But as you wait for help to arrive, there’s one more important step you should consider: taking photos of the accident.
Why? Because the pictures you take at the scene of a collision can become an invaluable tool during the car insurance claims process.
To learn more about the importance of accident photos – and get some tips on how to take them – we reached out to Leah Hancock, a material damage reinspector in the claims operations department at Erie Insurance. Here’s what she had to say.
WHY SHOULD YOU TAKE PICTURES AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT?
In short, photos offer concrete proof of what the accident looked like in the moments after a collision, which makes them much more reliable evidence than eyewitness accounts.
It helps figure out what happened: When managing an auto insurance claim, one important job of the claims team is trying to understand exactly what happened in the moments leading up to the accident. That includes finding out which driver was responsible for causing the collision to occur.
It helps determine fault: Determining who was at fault is important because it often dictates which driver’s insurance company will pay for the damages – including things like car repairs, medical bills and property damage. And whether or not you’re at fault can impact your auto rates after the accident, too.
It documents the scene: During the claims process, your insurance company’s claims representative will gather as much evidence as possible to decide who caused the accident. They’ll review the police report, and possibly interview the drivers or other witnesses. If there are any discrepancies in this information, pictures can be an important tool. (Learn more about what to expect when you file a claim with ERIE.)
“Photos can be the best evidence for showing how an accident happened,” Hancock said. “They also help you remember specifics about how the accident occurred.”
See also: Yep! Accidents Happen. (Then What?)
WHAT TYPES OF ACCIDENT PHOTOS SHOULD YOU TAKE?
You’ll want to start taking pictures as soon as it’s safe to do so – ideally before the vehicles are moved off the roadway.
“Start by taking wide-angle shots from a distance that show the entire accident scene,” Hancock said. “Once you’ve captured the overall scene, concentrate on taking clear photos of the damage to all vehicles involved.”
Here are some things you should try to capture:
Damage to any vehicles involved in the accident, as well as their license plates
Any property damage caused by the accident, such as road signs, fences or utility poles
Videos showing traffic flow or traffic light intervals
Any skid or gouge marks on the roadway
If possible, Hancock also recommends taking photos of the accident from multiple angles, including all four corners.
“Capturing the scene from multiple angles gives the adjuster a better perspective into how the accident happened,” she said. “The more photos you take, the more helpful you can be.”
HOW CAN YOUR ACCIDENT PHOTOS ASSIST IN THE CLAIMS PROCESS?
They can (potentially) speed up your claim. Since photos provide great evidence documenting what happened at the scene of the accident, they can often speed up the claims process – helping you get back on the road quicker.
They can help settle disputes. If disputes arise related to liability or damages, accident pictures can help resolve them.
They provide an objective take on what happened. “In one instance, I remember a customer was hit by another vehicle while she was driving through a parking lot,” Hancock said. “Both drivers stopped and exchanged information. But when the claim was reported to the insurance companies, there were conflicting versions of how the accident happened and who was at fault. Luckily, she had taken photos of the vehicles and the accident scene. Her photos proved the other driver was responsible and their insurance paid for the damages.”
See also: 5 Ways to Avoid Parking Lot Accidents
HOW SHOULD YOU SEND ACCIDENT PHOTOS TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY?
After a claim is filed with your insurance company, you’ll be put in touch with a claims adjuster that’s responsible for managing the claims process.
“If you’re an ERIE customer, you can text or email the photos to your adjuster,” Hancock said.
And if you’re looking for another way to put those photography skills to use, ERIE allows customers to take their own appraisal photos for certain claims. With this fast and convenient appraisal process, there’s no need to get an estimate from an auto body repair facility or wait for a claims adjuster to make an appointment to inspect your vehicle.
“ERIE’s photo appraisal tool allows the customer to submit photos quickly and conveniently through their device’s web browser and receive an estimate,” Hancock said. “It’s super easy to use!”
If your claim qualifies for a photo appraisal, your claims adjuster will send you a link to the tool via text message and email. From there, the website walks you through the process of taking photos and a short video of the vehicle damage. Once they’re uploaded, your representative will prepare an estimate and contact you to discuss your repair options.
ERIE customers: Read more in our guide on what to expect when you get car accident damages estimated.
PRESERVING YOUR WAY OF LIFE
We value your time, energy, schedule and commitments. That’s why we do everything we can to make our claims process convenient and fast. The sooner we can resolve your claim and replace your loss, the sooner your life returns to normal. Learn how an ERIE auto policy goes beyond the basics. To learn more about our stress-free claims process, get in touch with your local ERIE agent today.