We’ve often heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. This tried and true adage rings especially true at the trial of a car accident injury case when the picture in question is of the plaintiff’s vehicle following a collision. Such photographs often serve as the prism through which jurors view all of the other evidence in the case.
It’s no surprise that when the photographs show extensive property damage, jurors inherently believe that a client was injured in the collision. Conversely, when the photographs show little or no damage, jurors become skeptical of the plaintiff’s claims, and are even inclined to disbelieve the medical testimony of the plaintiff’s own treating physicians.
What Photographs are Admissible in a Car Accident Injury Case?
The admissibility of photographs, as all other evidence, is governed by the Louisiana Code of Evidence, which provides that relevant evidence is generally admissible, while irrelevant evidence is excluded. Relevant evidence, in turn, is defined as any evidence that tends to support or prove an element at issue in the case.
Unlike other states, Louisiana courts have not developed any bright-line rules regarding the admissibility of photos showing either minimal or catastrophic damage to vehicles, and thus the use of photographic evidence at trial remains a case-by-case determination subject to the discretion of the trial judge.
How Do I Submit My Car Accident Injury Photographs Into Case Evidence?
In order to admit a photograph of car accident property damage into evidence, a party must first authenticate it. Simply put, a party must offer evidence identifying the photograph as a true and accurate representation of what it purports to show. While Louisiana courts no longer require the testimony of the photographer who took the photograph, a judge must nevertheless be satisfied that the person authenticating the photograph had the opportunity to observe the property damage depicted. This requirement offers a plaintiff’s attorney the opportunity to exclude prejudicial photos of the plaintiff’s vehicle, because defendants seldom take more than a cursory look at the plaintiff’s property damage when it appears to be minimal.
In such instances, a plaintiff’s attorney can undermine the veracity of authenticating testimony through cross examination, and lead a judge to the conclusion that the improperly authenticated photographs ought to be excluded from evidence. Even in instances where prejudicial photos are nevertheless admitted, such cross examination testimony is helpful in explaining the inaccuracies between the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s accounts as to the severity of the car accident injury and collision.