Don’t Leave the Photos to the Insurance Company (and Their Photoshop Artists!)

Often times, people who have had their car damaged in an auto accident do not take pictures of their property damage, instead of leaving it to the insurance company (either theirs or the at-fault driver’s) to document.

Do not fall into this trap!

It is always important to maintain control over any and all evidence that will help your case. The reason why is because you do not want to risk the possibility that the insurance company, in an effort to dampen the evidence against their insured, will use a photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop to alter pictures of your vehicle thereby giving the impression that the traffic collision was not so severe.

Photoshop is a program that can not only reduce shadows, alter colors, but it can also distort images through elongation and airbrushing. Here is an example from an Ann Taylor catalog where the website retouched the photo to make the model look thinner:

If trained professionals can reduce the diameter of a woman’s stomach, torso, and legs, what do you think they can do to that dent in your car’s bumper? Photoshop is a very useful tool in the hands of the insurance company to make small, but significant collisions seem as if no property damage was incurred.

Now, the Courts are realizing that today’s digital images are not the old photographs of old–they can be altered on the fly and very easily. Recently in the criminal case People v. Khaled, the appellate court ruled that a red light traffic ticket must be overturned due to a conviction based upon unsubstantiated photographs taken by a camera at an intersection. The Court ruled that where the prosecution failed to lay the foundation for the photographs by submitting testimony establishing when and how the photographs were taken and that they were not altered. The Court ruled that the hearsay rule will exclude the evidence barring testimony laying out this foundation.

It is good that the courts are finally starting to recognize the ease to which photographic images can be altered and that the old business records exception to the hearsay rule cannot by itself allow for the introduction of photographs into evidence. However, what this should mean to you and to any other member of the public, is that it is better not to even give the insurance company an opportunity to alter photographs of your vehicle. The only way to do so is to make sure that you have taken pictures of your car so that you can keep the insurance company honest.