This is the third segment of a series titled Evidence & Proving Your Car Accident Personal Injury Case, and here, we discuss the importance of photographs.
Photos are impactful as evidence in accident injury claims because they can offer illustrative details of the scene of the accident, vehicle damage and injuries that may have been incurred. The majority (95%) of U.S. residents have a mobile phone of some kind equipped with a camera. Over 77% of residents have a smartphone equipped with cameras and video capabilities. This technology that we all almost possess can come in handy if you are in a car accident and want to memorialize by photo what happened.
Use of photos in traffic-related matters is expected.
Admissibility of Photo Evidence
Photos as potential evidence are generally admissible in Colorado courts as long as they are properly authenticated. The authentication process may be achieved through the support of witness testimony, through comparison to other evidence that had already been determined to be authentic, or other means as outlined in the state's procedural rules. In accidents involving injuries, photos that may be considered as “gruesome” may be restricted based on the court's discretion.
What to Photograph
When creating your photographic documentation following a vehicle accident you will want to consider capturing images of several aspects of the scene.
- Start by photographing the overall scene encompassing the background of the area to provide an accurate visual account of the conditions at the time the accident occurred. This would include pictures of traffic, daylight, road conditions, weather, etc.
- Next, you want to obtain several clear images of the damage to the vehicles from at least two angles. These images can be both external and internal snapshots of vehicular damage. Pictures of internal damage are specifically relevant when there is extensive property damage.
- Additional photos can include anything that you deem applicable or relevant. Some examples include the following: skid marks on the roadway or damage to public property (e.g., street signs).
- It is also important to photograph any injuries that you and/or your passengers incurred. The majority of smartphones now have cameras that also have the capability of taking fairly good quality video footage.
In today's society, both public and private cameras document a great deal of what transpires in public and private areas. Cameras may be used for security purposes at homes and businesses, law enforcement, monitoring of traffic and employees, fraud detection and a host of other reasons.
In many intersections, which are among the most common sites for vehicle accidents, it is possible that there could be several cameras recording the area for unrelated purposes.
An experienced attorney will locate cameras and request access to view the real-time footage of a car accident. This evidence would certainly be worthwhile for accurately establishing fault in an auto crash in Colorado.
Admissibility of Surveillance Footage
The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure permit evidence that is not privileged as long as it is considered relevant to either proving or defending a claim. This may include tangible items, such as documents, personal observations of witnesses or experts, and more. Although situations and circumstances vary and courts handle this on a case-by-case basis, the courts have traditionally allowed surveillance footage as long as it is properly entered during the pretrial process. A party in possession of such footage is required to properly disclose it or it may be excluded from use during a trial, or lead to a potential continuance or mistrial.
Benefits of Visual Evidence
Evidence of a visual nature can have a strong impact on auto accident claims. Photos and video are typically taken seriously by key participants, such as insurance companies and juries, because they have the potential of illustrating what occurred without any opinion or bias.
Photo evidence in an accident injury claim should be one tool that is used as part of an overall comprehensive set of evidence that may include medical reports, accident reports, witness accounts, scene reconstruction, and more. In addition to clarifying disputes regarding fault, photos may better demonstrate the types of injuries and their severity.
Return tomorrow for a discussion on how witness testimony can help (or hurt) your car accident personal injury case in Colorado.