Property damage pictures depicting the damage to the vehicles involved in the Missouri car crash are often helpful for the Plaintiff, especially when the damage is significant. However, oftentimes the damage appears to be very minor or even non existent, yet the driver or passenger still suffered injuries. In this situation the insurance defense lawyer will try to use the pictures to argue to a jury that the collision could not have caused the Plaintiff's injuries. This can be very powerful evidence for the defense, and a good car accident injury lawyer must be prepared to challenge these arguments.
How to Combat the Argument of No Damage to Car = Little or No Injury?
1. Argue that the Pictures Should be Excluded from Trial:
During a Missouri personal injury trial, the decision to exclude the pictures is within the discretion of the trial judge, however there is some helpful Missouri case law to make a good argument to the judge the pictures should be excluded, especially if you anticipate the defense will specifically argue minor damages means low impact and little or no injury without the support of expert testimony.
In the absence of expert testimony addressing the relationship between vehicle damage and severe injury, there is no foundation for the admission of property damage evidence. Interpreting the force of an impact from vehicle photographs and then assessing the likelihood of injury from such impact are tasks that can only be attempted by experts. The admission of property damage evidence would lead to unsupported and prejudicial speculation by the jury.
In order to present testimony that the forces of impact were not sufficient to cause certain personal injuries, at least one and possibly two experts would be required. First, a properly qualified expert would have to testify to the nature of the forces involved. Next, an expert would have to provide testimony concerning the nature of the injury based on the forces which were exerted.
In these situations all property damage evidence should be excluded because it lacks probative value to any element of the case and, assuming arguendo, that such evidence would have probative value, any probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and that the jury would be misled to speculate on items not within the evidence.
This argument the issue has never been specifically addressed by the Missouri Supreme Court, but similar cases have been discussed, see Boland v Jando,414 S.W.2d 560 (1967).
This precise issue has been decided by the Superior Court of New Jersey in Brenman v. Demello, 892 A.2d 741 (N.J. Super. 2006), the Delaware Supreme Court in Davis v. Maute, 770 A.2d 36 (Del. 2001), and DiCosola v. Bowman, 342 Ill.App.3d 530, 794 N.E.2d 875 (2003)
These cases have held that without expert testimony it was reversible error to admit property damage evidence and allow defense counsel to argue that a serious injury could not have resulted from such a minor collision.
2. Tried and Tested Counter Arguments:
Sometimes judges allow defense lawyers to make the argument despite lack of expert testimony and the cases above. When this occurred in a case I handled a few years back before the insurance defense lawyer even had an opportunity to make his insinuations, I addressed it with the jury immediately.
This particular case involved a St Louis rear end car accident where the at fault driver drove an old Cadillac with a steel bumper which hit my client's vehicle when she failed to stop for a red light. The steel bumper hit my client's trailer hitch, thus little damage was apparent despite a bent trailer hitch.
Effective arguments: comparing the auto collision to a tuning fork, as the energy from the collision was not absorbed by the vehicle's body but the energy was transferred directly to the frame of the vehicle and to the driver's body, causing injury. No absorption of the impact as is seen with modern car crunch zones and even formula one racing cars. They are built to shatter as to absorb the energy of the impact.
If you do not have the direct frame impact argument, there are also videos out there showing slow motion very low impact collisions (less then 10 miles per hour) and the effect on the human body. Quite dramatic. Make sure in any doctor depositions you ask if the doctor will testify to low impact being able to cause significant injury.
This is a topic could write about for many more pages, if you have been injured in a Missouri car accident contact a St Louis car crash lawyer today for a free consultation to discuss this and many other issues that may be relevant to your case.