How To Document Auto Accident Damage
When your vehicle gets damaged in a car accident and you decide to file a claim with your car insurance company, you want to make sure that you get fair compensation.
The best approach is to provide as much evidence as possible.
Take Notes at the Scene of the Accident
You will probably be shaken after an accident, but it’s important to gather evidence to strengthen your claim. Write down details at the scene. These will help your claims adjuster review your case, and can be instrumental if your case goes to court.
There may be months between the accident and the settlement of your claim, and you can forget key details in that time. Notes can improve your memory’s accuracy.
Record as much as you can of the following:
- What happened?
- Who was driving where?
- What led to the accident?
- The speed you were driving.
- The current road conditions (wet, dry, sun glare).
- Whether there were any distractions, such as texting or talking on a cell phone.
- Anything you overheard following the crash, e.g., what the other driver may have said, or what witnesses shared.
- Who witnessed the accident and where they were standing at the time.
- The other driver’s name and car insurance information.
Documenting Damage with Photos
Photos can really strengthen your case. Use a smartphone or camera to take pictures at the scene. These photos can help you get fair compensation for damage to your vehicle after a car accident.
If you can, photograph the following:
- Exterior damage to all vehicles involved in the crash.
- Include shots of each of the four corners of each car so that the viewer can see two sides of the car at once.
- The positions of the vehicles at the crash scene.
- Include landmarks, such as street lines or lights, so that viewers can orient themselves and understand where the cars are.
- Vehicle license plates.
- Interior damage to all involved cars.
- Any debris, skid marks, and vehicle parts that are related to the accident.
Keep All Documentation
Keep all documentation so you can provide it to your car insurance claims adjuster; she will use this documentation to more effectively investigate your claim.
Save all bills, receipts, and estimates that are related to your car damage. These can include payments for the following.
- Car repairs.
- Rental cars and other alternate transportation needed while your car was in repair.
- Bills for towing your car after the accident.
Getting Fair Market Value After a Total Loss
Your car is considered a total loss if the amount of damage is more than the total value of the car.
When a total loss occurs, insurance will cover only the fair market value or actual cash value (ACV) of your car. In order to ensure you get a fair settlement:
- Check the Kelly Blue Book for the fair market value of your car’s make, model, and year.
- Provide any recent photos of your vehicle (interior and exterior) if you have any.
- Make a list of any repairs and maintenance that you’ve had in the recent past.
Making the Claim and Finalizing the Settlement
When you make your claim with your car insurance company, make sure to gather and submit the police report along with:
- Your photos.
- Receipts for repair work/towing/rental cars.
- Any other related documentation.
Once you’ve made your claim, you’ll be contacted by a claims adjustor who will contact you and ask further questions.
Once your car insurance company offers you a fair settlement, you will receive a check. Be sure that the settlement that you sign states that it is for property damage only. Avoid signing any documents that say “general release” on them, as this could release the car insurance company from settling any additional claims, e.g., bodily injury claims.
If you are unhappy with your settlement, you have some options. See our page on handling disputed claims.
Remember, you will have a much easier time getting a good settlement offer if you collect your evidence and present thorough documentation to your claims adjuster.Find Your
Local DMV Office
- What happened?