(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this brain injury/car accident case and its proceedings.)
Pictures in various forms (e.g., engineering drawings, artist’s renderings, computer-generated displays, photographs) are commonly used in court. Photography is one of the most commonly used forms of visual presentation in court, because they assist the trier of fact in understanding injuries, the vehicles, the scene, when offered for that purpose. Jurors tend to believe that what they see in a photograph is what they would have seen had they been there themselves at the time the photograph was taken. And here, photographs and other depictions are central to issues in this auto accident case.
This belief is reinforced by their own experience, since most of them have probably taken photographs at one time or another. Unfortunately, most jurors have little knowledge about photography, hence little understanding of the possible problems and limitations.
Many experts now try to offer into evidence nighttime photographs, videos, and even computer-generated displays purporting to show the visibility available to an individual in a particular situation. Relative to verbal explanations of the results of a reenactment, these displays are regarded as a great improvement, but they present a number of problems that are seldom dealt with or even acknowledged by the individuals seeking to introduce this evidence.
Generally, daytime photographs will serve their purpose if they are sufficiently clear and are not distorted with the use of special lenses, filters, and arguments over such photographs are often not sufficient to keep them fairly out of evidence.
On the other hand, nighttime photographs are generally intended to depict with some precision the perceptions of a specific individual under defined circumstances. Therefore, they must meet not only the general criteria of daytime photographs but also depict with great accuracy the luminance levels and contrast present at the scene.
To be fair, a foundation must be laid that they reasonably duplicate that of the person or persons whose perceptions are at issue. Two critical assumptions are made by jurors if allowed, which might be totally unfair and unproven:
(1) that the camera system is duplicating human vision with a high degree of precision;
(2) the way the jurors will perceive the photographs replicates pretty exactly the way the person whose eye view the picture purports to depict also saw things at the moment at issue the photograph tries to replicate.
Both of these can be seriously flawed assumptions. (See Part 8 of 8.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.