Photographs Admitted at Trial
In Illinois car accident jury trials, one of the more important evidentiary issues whether photographs of the cars or trucks or motorcycles involved in the crash will be admitted into evidence for the jury to consider. The reason is that photographs of say minor damage to the injured party’s car or truck would raise the notion of most jurors that the claim of injury to the persons in that vehicle is exaggerated.
Over the last 20 years, the Illinois Appellate Courts in the various districts have been at odds on settling on a method to admit or not photographs of the party’s vehicle into evidence. Some Illinois Appellate Courts have allowed photographs to be admitted into evidence, but would require expert testimony to correlate the extent of the damage to the vehicles to the injuries to the drivers and passengers. The leading case on the subject is DiCosola v. Bowman, 342 Ill.App.3d 530, 534 (1st 2003).
In another case that predated DiCosola, Cancio, the admission of photographs of vehicles for purposes of assessing an injured passenger or driver’s injuries was allowed. In that case, the jury was to determine if the damage to the vehicle, small, minimal or large or significant, directly related to the claim of injuries suffered by the passengers and drivers.
In several later cases that were decided in Illinois Fifth District, the admissibility of photographs of the vehicles involved in a crash were allowed even without expert testimony. In relying on those cases, the jury in a personal injury case involving a car accident, truck accident, bike accident, motorcycle accident could determine the level of injury to the passengers based on the damage to the vehicles without the assistance of an expert.
In short, the defendants in vehicular accidents, including cars and trucks where there is minimal damage depicted in photographs of the vehicles, the defendants would press the court to admit the photographs to try to prove to the jury that the injuries claimed by the passengers and drivers of the injured were minimal just as the damage to the vehicle was minimal. The defendants would claim that the evidence shown on the photographs would go in as evidence to be considered by the jury without the assistance of an expert witness on the biomechanics or a medical testimony as to the correlation between the impact and the injuries.
Many experts have opined over the years that there is no correlation between the damage to a vehicle and the injuries suffered by a passenger in a motor vehicle. In fact, low impact cases have resulted in very serious injuries to drivers and passengers of those vehicles and can be cited to demonstrate that fact. There is no assurance that a low impact crash would result in a minimal injury to the passengers or drivers of vehicles involved. Lawyers on both sides continue this argument before trial judges in Illinois regularly. The cases are divided still on what approach is the correct one.
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Robert Kreisman of Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Chicago and Illinois auto accidents for more than 40 years.
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