How to Document Damage and Gather Evidence for a Car Insurance Claim

Last Updated on January 30, 2020

The decisions you make in the aftermath of a car accident are of the utmost importance.  Your first course of action is to tend to your health. If you are injured in any way, seek medical attention without delay.  If you are capable of physical movement, do your best to document the damage to your vehicle and your person. This documentation really does have the potential to make the difference between a successful car insurance claim and a denial that leaves you on the hook for all related costs.  Here’s how to comprehensively document your auto accident.

Take Pictures and Video of the Accident Scene

how to document damage for car insurance claimNowadays, just about everyone has a smartphone capable of capturing images and video.  If you haven’t hopped on the smartphone trend, be sure to keep paper and several pens in your vehicle’s glove compartment or other storage space.  Take or draw a picture of the accident scene. Snap photos of your vehicle, the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident, property damage, the intersection or area of the accident and anything else that might help prove you were not at fault.  If you have visible injuries, take pictures of those as well. This way, you can show the insurance company evidence of all damage to your property as well as your person, bolstering your case that much more.

Record Witness Information

If anyone witnessed the accident, it is imperative you take down their contact information.  If you own a smartphone, record a verbal statement from witnesses. Make sure witnesses provide their full names and contact information so they can be reached in the future should their testimony be required in court.  Though police officers called to the scene of auto accidents are supposed to record witness information and write down statements to get a better picture of what actually happened, there is no guarantee the police officer will remember to do so.  Record this information on your own. Make copies for your records so you can protect your interest in the fullest should the insurance company deny your claim or if the matter proceeds to court.

Gather all Medical Records

Personal injury attorneys far and wide are adamant auto accident victims should be examined by a doctor following the collision.  Even if you do not have a visible injury or feel pain in the immediate aftermath of the accident, you might require medical assistance, pain relief medication or durable medical equipment at some point in the future after the full impact of the accident manifests.  It often takes several hours or even several days for latent injuries such as whiplash to manifest. Protect your interest by visiting with the doctor immediately after your auto accident. Request copies of all related medical records, whether it is from a hospital that treated you for your injuries, your primary doctor or another care provider.  Fail to obtain these documents and it will be that much easier for the insurance company to argue your injuries, pain, and suffering are unrelated to the auto accident.

The Police Report

As noted above, it is prudent to call the police to the scene of the accident so they can create an official report, interview witnesses and help traffic proceed in an orderly manner.  Your accident report paints the picture of what happened, making it that much easier to assign fault. Obtain the police report pertaining to your accident, present it to the insurance company and it will be that much more difficult for them to deny your claim.

Bills and Repair Estimates

Put all bills and repair estimates related to the accident in a folder designated for documenting the auto accident.  If your vehicle or your person were damaged in any way, it is imperative you obtain medical assistance and repair estimates as soon as possible following the accident.  This documentation will detail all of your expenses related to the accident to ensure you are fully compensated for your costs.

Create A Treatment Journal

You and only you know how much pain, heartache and suffering the auto accident caused.  Create a treatment journal in which you detail your injuries, related treatment, and the impact on your life.  Track each of your injuries stemming from the auto accident in this journal. Be as detailed as possible. Write down how you feel in the days and weeks following the accident.

It will also help to record the dates and times of all medical appointments to prove you required medical care following this unfortunate event.  Your legal representative will use your treatment journal along with the rest of the documentation described in this post to prove your injuries are related to the auto accident, explain the extent of those injuries and show how your attempt to recover has unfolded.

Pay Stubs

Some auto accidents are violent to the point that the victims can no longer work.  If you miss any time at work, make a copy of your pay stub as well as your tax return.  This evidence is essential as it shows you really did miss time following the auto accident.  Your attorney will fiercely advocate on your behalf to obtain compensation for lost wages as well as diminished working capacity across posterity.

When in Doubt, Document It!

The moral of this story is to document everything in-depth if it has any relation at all to the auto accident.  Make three copies of everything: one for your records, one for the insurance company and one for your legal counsel.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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