Thursday, May 3, 2012

Accident Investigation 101 Part IV - Photographing the Scene of an Accident

Photography can often serve as a valuable method of recording conditions at the time of the accident. This is true whether the incident is minor or serious.  Often times incidents don’t mature to a serious claim until much later.  Preserving the original scene as much as possible is vital as often changes occur during the investigation or shortly thereafter.

Photographs should be made prior to any adjustments to the scene.  They are helpful in determining what happened, preparing your report and in analyzing the conditions at the site.   These can be taken with a video, digital, disposable, or cell phone camera. 

Before taking any pictures you should determine if the scene has been altered.  If items have been moved or changed note what the alteration is and the person’s name who made the change.  Items may have been moved to reach an injured person or other legitimate reasons.  Remember to photograph from several angles; front, back and both sides.  For close-ups, use a ruler next to the object photographed in order to provide an accurate scale for the picture.

Create a log for each photographs/videos taken (download sample log here).  Note the weather conditions, time of day, angle from which it was taken, by whom and any observations made while photographing.  This information should be recorded at the same time as the pictures are being taken.  Utilize technology by recording into the video itself, into a note taker on your cell phone or have an employee write/type as you dictate.

Please be sure to pull and preserve any security camera footage on to a CD.  Save it with a date and time stamp as well as documenting the name of the claimant.   Keep all of the evidence from the accident in a separate clearly labeled envelope.

Statistically, the average person remembers 50% after 1 hour and only 30% a after 8 hours.
Once you are satisfied that you have gathered all of the evidence, including samples of liquids and any machinery you will need from the scene of the accident, it is best to return it to normal use.  Remove all barriers, restore power and allow personnel to function at the scene as normally as possible.  However, you must first make sure it is safe to do so.