Changing the way personal injury cases are tried in Indiana
In August, 2011, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued an opinion that may alter the way personal injury cases are tried in Indiana. For the first time in Indiana courts, the opinion tackled the issue of whether a photo of claimant’s damaged vehicle could be admitted as evidence to help the jury determine of the extent of claimant’s bodily injuries.
In the case at bar, the trial court allowed the photo of plaintiff’s vehicle—which showed minimal to no damage—to be admitted as Exhibit D into evidence. The jury, correlating a direct relationship between amount of property damages and amount of bodily injuries, awarded no compensation to Plaintiff for his bodily injury damages.
Property damage may not be a true reflection of bodily injuries
Upon appeal, plaintiff’s attorney argued the photograph should not have been admitted into evidence since property damages are irrelevant to bodily injuries. The Court of Appeals sought rulings from other jurisdictions since Indiana was without authority on the issue. The Court discovered that several states bar the use of photos into evidence for the purpose of making a connection to the extent of injuries unless an expert witness testifies that a relationship between damage and injury exists. But the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with other
jurisdictions that permit the admission of property damage photos demonstrating a degree of injury, thereby drawing a relationship between the two without the testimony of an expert. In this case, Plaintiff’s own expert witness did not, in fact, suggest that a correlation between property damage and bodily injury could not be drawn in this case. [www.theindianalawyer.com]
The amount of property damage does not necessarily reflect the extent of injuries suffered by an accident victim. As a result of the opinion of the Court, personal injury attorneys will need to show substantial vehicular damage commensurate with claimant’s injuries or in the alternative, seek the testimony of an expert witness that can confirm that the vehicle’s damage is irrelevant to plaintiff’s unique bodily injuries.