Documenting the scene of the wreck can be very important. Photographs or videotape of the vehicles and the scene of the wreck can really make a difference in presenting the case to the insurance company by helping to resolve disputes about what occurred. No matter how clear cut the accident facts seem to be, you should expect to get an argument from the insurance company about what “really” happened. If you hire an experienced injury lawyer immediately after the wreck, your lawyer should immediately send his team to photograph the vehicles and to document the scene of the wreck by taking photos of skid marks (or the absence of skid marks) as well as conditions that existed at the time (e.g. construction zone).
In a few instances there may be no way for them to deny fault–such as when you are stopped for at least a few seconds before you are rear-ended by another car or when you are hit by another car that came into your lane while driving the opposite direction. However, almost every other accident scenario offers the claims adjuster some opportunity to try to re-direct at least some of the fault to you or another driver.
Many people mistakenly believe that when the other driver admits fault at the scene, the insurance company must accept liability. Not true. It is very common for the at-fault driver to blurt out an apology at the scene. It is equally common for the at-fault driver to later change his story.
After leaving the scene, the at-fault driver will be replaying the wreck in his mind. He may begin to fear his insurance rates will go up or that someone else (an employer, spouse or parent) will be angry about the wreck. At that point the “creative imagination” may suggest to him other explanations to them–such as, a “phantom vehicle” cut them off and fled the scene, you cut in front of him at the last minute, etc. Unless there are witnesses to the wreck that you can contact, it may boil down to a swearing match between the two drivers–especially in intersection collision cases.
If possible, you or someone on your behalf should take photos of the vehicles and the scene before the vehicles are moved. If you don’t have a digital camera on your cell phone, then ask the police officer to take photos for you (most police officers keep a digital camera or camcorder in their vehicle). Identify all witnesses. Don’t rely on the police officer to get names of witnesses. Many times the police officer also believes the facts are obvious (or they’re lazy), so they don’t bother to write down any of the names or contact information of witnesses. Other times, a witness may not wait around to speak to the police. At the very least, write down the license plate number of any witnesses and others at the scene. Their identity can usually be located quickly.
Everything you do early on to document the accident facts will help maximize your case. Don’t wait to see what the insurance company is going to do before you start to work on these things. The physical evidence cannot be replicated later on. The vehicles will be repaired or scrapped. Skid marks will fade away. Witnesses will disappear. The injury victim who waits to call an injury lawyer usually regrets it later on when important evidence is no longer available.