By the time you come across this article, wouldn't you know it, it's too late, right? You already had an automobile crash and the opportunity to gather evidence from the scene has long since passed. Nevertheless, statistics show that the typical driver will be involved in as many as three car crashes in his or her lifetime. For future reference, we submit this checklist for you to follow. The good news is that your smartphone is the perfect tool for virtually everything you need to gather and preserve from the accident scene.
- Pictures, pictures, pictures: The crash scene is a virtual treasure trove of evidence that almost always gets lost when the crashed cars get towed away and the debris is quickly swept into a dust pan by the dutiful tow truck driver. We suggest that you use your smartphone camera to take photos of the traffic accident scene as subtly as possible. Take close-ups of the car damage, take further back photos of the cars, skid marks, photos of where the cars came to rest in the intersection, and take further back photos of the debris in the roadway in relation to where the crashed vehicles ended up. Avoid moving your vehicle and encourage other drivers involved to not move their vehicles until the police arrive, or at least not until you have taken sufficient photographs to document the collision.
- Get names and numbers of witnesses: Consider using an audio record function on your phone or you can even ask permission to do a quick video statement of witnesses and the at-fault driver.
- How to get a witness to talk: We suggest that you approach eye witnesses as follows "Look, I don't have a pen or paper and it's pretty dangerous out here and I'd like to get some quick information for my insurance company. Is it okay if I push this record button on my phone and get your information?"
- How to get the at-fault driver to talk: Ask the at-fault driver open ended questions once recording. Did you see what happened before? How fast were you going? What do you think you did wrong, if anything? Can you explain, the best you can, how you think this happened? During the recording, ask them for their address, telephone number, etc. Generally, drivers who cause collisions are very apologetic and remorseful at the scene. Nonetheless, I would say that about half the apologetic and remorseful drivers somehow lose that feeling in the days following the motor vehicle crash. Drivers who readily admit fault at the scene will oftentimes start rethinking their story a few days later. "Yes, I turned left into traffic, but I didn't see the other car - she must have been going awfully fast for me not to have seen her." Days later, that sentiment mutates into "I think blame should be shared here." Days after that, when discussing this matter with the insurance company or with the insurance company lawyers, the story becomes, "she came out of nowhere and probably at twice the speed limit." It's for these reasons that we suggest that you commit at-fault drivers to their initial recollection of the collision by recording their statements at the accident scene while they are remorseful and truthful. While they are apologizing, simply ask them to tell you what happened into your recording, or even better, a video on your smartphone. Tell them that your insurance needs this it and it will help to process the claim faster.
- Get witness statements even when at-fault driver is accepting blame at the scene: Oftentimes, the at-fault driver is going to tell you that he doesn't know what happened, or may suggest later that he was dazed and confused at the scene of the accident. Nonetheless, even if you have a remorseful at-fault driver admitting fault, you should still take the time to gather information from any witnesses because the police are not going to get any of their information if it appears to the police officer that the two parties involved in the crash are agreeing as to how the crash occurred. The problem is that sometimes, the at-fault driver will change his mind after talking to his insurance company and will come up with some excuse for how the crash occurred. So, if you have witnesses who saw the auto accident happen, consider getting statements from them with a similar approach."Look I know my insurance company is going to need witness statements. I don't really want to burden you with having to write anything out, but if I could just push this record button and get your information it would be really helpful. Would that be okay?" Once you start the recorded statement, consider asking questions like, "When did you know there was going to be a crash? What made you first notice the Jeep that hit me? In your estimation, from what you saw, why did this crash happen? How fast do you think the Jeep driver was going? Did you think I did anything wrong to cause this collision?"
- Don't secretly record anyone: Do not secretly record or video record anyone. It could be illegal in some circumstances and could come back to haunt you in the future in the form of a character attack by the insurance attorney or other people involved in the case. If done too overtly, it could look distasteful. Ask each person you interview to confirm that they know they are being recorded or videoed. Even work into the video that you are doing this to save time for everyone. Audio recording without video is just fine to get the other driver to tell you that it was totally his fault. Also, in these circumstances, when a driver leaves the scene knowing that he gave you an airtight recording that admits unconditional and total fault, they are much less likely to backslide later.
- Use photos to save you from getting writer's cramp: Your phone can also be valuable for other things. Rather than sitting on the side of the road trying to write out information from a person's driver's license and insurance information, consider taking a quick snap shot of it with your phone.
- Do everything said above as much as possible, but above all, don't be a jerk: In a perfect world, I would love to say that you should take 50 photos or more of the accident scene. Photograph any bruising or skinned knees, any bruising on your body, any other person hurt in the collision, skid marks on the road, and video record every eye witness. All of these would be ideal. Except, each of these things could make you look like the jerk of the accident scene. Be careful, be subtle, and don't be too much in anyone's face. Above all, do not turn your video on the investigating police officer. The cop will hate you and his final report will likely reflect that fact. If need be, take 10 subtle photos and do a quick audio recording of the remorseful at-fault driver admitting total fault for causing the collision. Then quickly take down information from one or two eye witnesses, including their addresses and cell phone numbers.You must avoid making the investigating officer feel like you're meddling in the investigation. That will often be written into the report. Also, sometimes witnesses who might otherwise be totally on your side become very repulsed by what looks like distasteful behavior by you in taking over an investigation. So you have to carefully read the situation. I would rather you have very little information except a few handwritten phone numbers and maybe one or two photographs while not looking like a jerk, than you having an entire compendium of records with a bunch of witnesses and the police officer remembering you as a jerk.
At Anderson Hemmat, we know that it can be very distressing to be in a car accident. Nevertheless, if you can shake off the initial shock of the collision, you can gather lots of useful evidence like witness statements and photos of the collision with your smartphone. This evidence may prove crucial to your case at a later time and you only have a short time to get it. Most importantly, be subtle and polite when gathering this information so that the witnesses and police officers do not think that you are taking over the investigation or being a jerk. If you have been injured in an automobile collision, please call (303) 782-9999 and speak with one of our attorneys today to discuss the evidence you gathered at the scene of the accident and how that information helps your Colorado injury case.