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The Importance of Pictures and Video Footage in Car Accident Cases

Most people have all heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words.” While it is believed that this phrase, or some variation of it, has been around since the early 1900’s, it is not clear where it originated from. What is known is that the phrase started to become used more widely in the press around the 1920’s. The concept behind the phrase is as applicable today, as it was back then, and with the prevalent use of cell phones in our society, pictures have become an invaluable tool in our society. 

Pictures tell stories that witnesses cannot. Pictures are generally independent reliable witnesses which capture shots at the time that something is happening. They preserve what is happening in the moment for future use. While pictures can be manipulated, especially in our digital age, they are still often more reliable than witnesses. 

Video cameras, and security footage in particular, have also become more commonplace in society. It is not just businesses or municipalities that use video cameras for security purposes anymore, but many individuals have cameras installed outside their homes. In addition, most people have cell phones with video recording capabilities which makes recording images extremely easy. Like pictures, video footage is real-time recording of events and tends to be more reliable than witnesses. 

Witnesses often see different things. In the case of a car accident, 5 different witnesses standing together on a street corner will likely have 5 somewhat different stories about what they believe happened. That can be for any number of reasons. They may have been talking to the person next to them, looking at the phones or just not paying attention. Pictures and video footage, along with witness observations, can be extremely valuable in any car accident case. 

Taking Pictures After a Car Accident

It is important to make sure that helpful pictures are taken after a car accident. If it is not possible to take pictures while at the scene of a car accident, then they should be taken as soon as possible afterwards. Having a time/date stamp on the pictures, or a way to show that they were taken on the day and at the time of the accident, is particularly helpful. 

Multiple pictures taken from multiple angles can be invaluable in resolving a case. With the increased use of cell phones and the quality of pictures that many cell phones take, taking pictures should not be difficult. The parties can ask a witness or bystander, or even the police, to take pictures if they are unable to. Pictures that should be taken and are most helpful include:

  • Damage. This includes pictures of damage to all vehicles involved. Taking photos of all the vehicles, including those with no damage, can be helpful if one party asserts that there was more damage then there actually was or that there was no damage.
  • The road. This includes any skid marks, debris on the road or other road conditions like ice or spilled oil that may have contributed to the accident.
  • The accident scene. It is important to capture the position of the vehicles as well as any signs, stop lights or markings on the road.
  • Physical injuries. 
  • Witnesses. Witness information should be taken but a photograph of a witness is also valuable. As stated above, witness information can be unreliable. For example, if a witness typically wears glasses but did not have them on at the time of a car accident, a picture would show that and might cast doubt on the witness's testimony. 
  • Weather conditions. Weather like rain, snow, ice, and sun glare can all lead to car accidents. It can be hard to recall the exact weather conditions on the day of an accident days or months later if a case goes to trial. 

Benefits of Using Photographs in Car Accident Cases

Proving that another party’s actions caused a car accident, and then proving damages, can be difficult. This is particularly true in a contributory negligence state like North Carolina, where an injured party will be precluded from recovering damages if they were even partly at fault for the car accident. Pictures can aid in proving both damage and injury by:

  1. Showing the damage to a vehicle. One party may try to argue that there was no damage to the car, or that it was minimal like a scratch on the bumper. A party might try to argue that at least some of the damage occurred after the car accident. Insurance companies will take pictures of the damaged vehicle but that might not occur until days after the accident. Pictures taken at the scene of the accident will easily and accurately resolve any disputes as to the extent of the damage.
  2. Showing physical injuries. Pictures of injuries taken at the scene of an accident may be useful for convincing an insurance company, or a jury, to pay for injuries. Naturally not all injuries will manifest themselves at the scene but it is still helpful to take pictures. Pictures taken over the days following a car accident can also be useful. Bruising and swelling in particular may not be fully visible for a number of days.  
  3. Showing what happened. If a car was speeding and lost control, skid marks might show that. A patch of ice could have led to a car losing control. Taking detailed pictures of the scene from various angles could help to resolve a car accident case more quickly. 
  4. Identifying other evidence. Photographs of witnesses, whose information was not gathered at the scene, will be helpful to identify witnesses. Photographs of nearby buildings might be helpful in obtaining security footage which could show what caused the accident or what road conditions were like. 

Why Do I Need a Charlotte Law Firm?

Car accidents happen more often than people realize. The Charlotte, NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced car accident attorneys who can help you understand your rights, gather information and advise you as to whether or not you have damages and should proceed with a claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation. 

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