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The Impact of Graphic Injury Photographs on Liability Verdicts and Non-Economic Damage Awards



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Over the years, the use of graphic, and at times gruesome, visual imagery in the courtroom has become commonplace. In the criminal setting, particularly trials involving violent crime, prosecutors make every effort to put grisly photographs of the victim and crime scene in front of the jury. These photos are typically selected on the basis of their shock value in an effort to portray the horrific nature of the crime. From the prosecutor's perspective, the more abhorrent the photograph the more effective it becomes. In the civil arena, plaintiff attorneys attempt to enter into evidence photographs of their client's injuries.

These photographs are often taken immediately after an accident and may be far removed from their client's current condition. Although the use of such imagery has become the norm, the prejudicial nature of this evidence continues to be a contested issue in courtrooms across America. Criminal defense attorneys routinely submit motions in limine to restrict or exclude crime scene photos on the grounds they put undue focus on the victim and generate sympathy. Civil defense attorneys submit similar motions, positing that such evidence, which may be relevant for determining damages, has an improper impact on jurors' assessments of liability. Under both circumstances, judges exercise their discretion and usually allow the jury to see some, if not all, of the images.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. A Study of Impacts in a Product Liability Lawsuit
  3. 3. The Influence of Photographs On Juror Verdicts
  4. 4. Practical Implications of Injury Photographs in Civil Litigation
  5. 5. Legal Remedies
  6. 6. References