car accident attorneysWhether it is a slip and fall or car accident, taking pictures can be extremely helpful in a claim for personal injuries.  In any personal injury case, gathering evidence to support your claim is extremely important. Common evidence used in injury cases and court are witness’ testimony, medical or doctors’ records/notes and medical bills. However, in most cases the best piece of evidence can be pictures.  Pictures are the only type of proof that does not come from an opinion, recollection or interpretation of the accident or scene.  Instead, a picture paints a secure and accurate image of the scene. 

In fact, it is one of the recommendations Attorney Chuck Pappas makes in his book: How to Maximize your Settlement. In Chapter Two Attorney Pappas states “If there is an issue of liability (who was at fault), photographs can help substantiate your claim that the other driver was negligent or careless.” Therefore, pictures are arguably the most valuable piece of evidence as proof of liability and damages in an injury case.  

Pictures in Car Accident Claims

In a claim for injuries suffered in a car crash, the other driver must be proven to have been negligent.  Negligence basically means the breach or failure to use reasonable care in performing a task. So, if a driver is found to have failed to use reasonable care while driving and caused a car accident that injured another person, they will be held to have been negligent.

Damages in a personal injury claim from a car accident are the injuries, financial losses (i.e., medical bills and lost wages), and pain and suffering an accident victim suffers. The damages after a car crash establish how much the victim is compensated. 

Pictures taken at a scene of a car accident can be very helpful.  They can:

  • help establish how the car crash happened;
  • provide a sympathetic depiction of the injuries sustained;
  • show the weather conditions at the time of the accident;
  • show any traffic or road signs that might be relevant; and,
  • depict skid marks or debris from the vehicles after the crash. 

Pictures of these items can be used to prove or disprove an essential element that may be in dispute in a personal injury claim.  

For Example: Let’s assume you hurt your back, neck and shoulder in a car accident and file a personal injury claim. In this accident there are no witnesses other than you and the other driver. The other car’s insurance company will speak to their insured and conduct an investigation. The other driver tells his or her insurance company that you swerved into their lane and caused the crash. You were smart enough, though, to take a photograph of how the cars were positioned after the car accident. The picture clearly shows the other car in your travel lane with skid marks from their tires coming from their lane. This picture might be the best piece of evidence to help establish that the other driver was liable and responsible for causing the car accident.

Of course, if you are seriously hurt in the accident, you may not be able to take the pictures yourself. In this situation, try to ask a passenger or bystander to take photographs of the scene for you. As you can see from the above example, a picture might be your best evidence.

Pictures in Slip and Fall Claims

A slip and fall is another type of personal injury claim. This is where a person is injured after slipping or tripping because of a hazardous condition caused by someone else’s negligence.  As with any personal injury case, a slip and fall requires the injured party to establish the property owner was negligent. This generally means that the cause of the fall was a dangerous condition and that the property owner or person in control of the property knew or should have known about the condition and failed to use reasonable care in fixing it.

As we've written about before, taking a picture of the property or dangerous condition on the property can be very helpful in a slip and fall case.  A picture provides visual proof of the snow, ice, or other hazardous conditions the owner left or failed to address on the property. Without a picture of the property or hazardous condition, lawyers and insurance adjusters must rely on witness statements and their recollection of what the property looked like on a specific day. Usually, this causes a dispute.

For Example: If you fractured your ankle after slipping and falling on ice in a Massachusetts parking lot, you may argue that the property owner failed to use reasonable care in removing or treating the dangerously icy conditions. The property owner might deny your claim and assert they used salt and sand to treat the ice. In this case, however, you took a picture of the parking lot, specifically the area where you fell, which shows that there was sheer ice and no trace of sand or salt. This picture might be the best piece of evidence you have to successfully pursue your injury claim.

As you can see, a picture of the dangerous condition can make the plaintiff’s claim more difficult for an insurance company to deny or contest.  

Tips for Taking Effective Accident Photos

There can never be too many pictures.  Having more pictures will provide a greater likelihood of having valuable proof.  Do not stress about the quality of the camera, a simple camera phone will provide quality pictures to use as evidence.  Especially with the new smart phones everyone seems to be walking around with nowadays.  Here are some tips for taking photos at the scene of a car crash or slip and fall accident:

  • Take general pictures: This will provide an overall view of the accident without zooming in on the details.  If possible, try to get the setting from a couple of different angles and distances away.  For instance, get pictures of all vehicles involved in the accident:  the sides of the cars, the front of the accident, the back of the accident, and skid marks, if any.
  • Take pictures of road signs: Road signs include traffic lights, stop signs, speed limit signs, and yield signs.  These road signs can later help prove the other driver’s negligence.
  • Take pictures of the road, lot and weather condition: Weather conditions are especially important for a slip and fall accident.  Snow and ice accumulation can prove that a property owner failed to maintain a safe environment for visitors.  For example, if it is snowing, a property owner should take reasonable steps to remove and treat the snow and ice on the property. If snow or ice was not removed, it is important to get photographic proof.
  • Take pictures of the damages: Car damages, broken glass, damaged objects such as street signs, trees, or stationary objects, and any injuries are important to document. Taking pictures of the damages can help support your claim and the amount of compensation sought. 

Pictures for your personal injury claim can be a big help in seeking maximum compensation for the injuries you sustained. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, it is important to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Joe Mahaney and Chuck Pappas have years of experience, proven case results, and have dedicated their law office to helping accident victims get the financial compensation they deserve. If you have any questions about an accident and injury feel free to contact us today, either online or call us at (508) 879-3500. 

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.