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Photographs As Evidence in Personal Injury Cases


Photographs used to have a lot more authority and more gravitas than they do today.  Look at old pictures of your grandparents from when they were young; chances are, they are smiling.  In the 19th century, sitting for a daguerreotype took hours; it was not so different from sitting for a painted portrait, and the practice of wearing somber expressions and poses that you could easily hold for a long time persisted long into the era of snapshots.  A closely contested footrace could be said to be a photo finish, and you would not be sure who won until the photographs of the finish line had developed.  Today, people snap hundreds of images on their smartphones every day and edit them beyond recognition, until it is impossible to tell what is real.  How, then, do photographs work as evidence in personal injury cases in 2023?  You can and should take pictures of the scene of an accident where you suffered injuries, but to prove that the images show what you say they show, you need a Jacksonville premises liability lawyer.

Kho vs. Miami: A Court’s Decision About the Reliability of Photographic Evidence

In 2010, Juanita Kho was walking on a public sidewalk in Miami, when she lost her footing on an uneven piece of asphalt, causing her to trip and fall.  She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, requesting compensation for her accident-related medical bills and other financial losses arising from the accident.  As evidence, she showed a photograph of the area of sidewalk where the accident had occurred.  The image showed an uneven asphalt patch in the place where Kho had fallen.  The trial court awarded her $90,000 in damages.

The City of Miami appealed the decision, and the appeals court eventually reversed the ruling.  The deciding factor was the origin of the image that Kho had presented at the original trial.  Kho had found the image by searching for it on Google Maps; it was probably originally a Google Earth image, and it was taken in 2007.  In other words, the image was not sufficient to prove that the sidewalk was in an unsafe condition at the time of Kho’s accident, since it had been taken three years earlier, and Kho did not provide other evidence about the condition of the sidewalk at the time of her fall.  In the appeals court’s decision and subsequently, the courts have elaborated on their criteria about self-authenticating images.

What this means for your case is that, before you show images as evidence, you and your lawyer should discuss the inferences that the court might make based on these images.  You should think about the story that your images tell and find other evidence to support it.

Contact Douglas & Douglas About Premises Liability Cases

A North Florida personal injury lawyer can help you if you got injured in a trip and fall accident on a public sidewalk.  Contact Douglas & Douglas in Jacksonville, Florida for a free consultation.



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