Demonstrative Evidence in Civil Trial Cases
"Biomechanics" of Serious Personal Injury
A picture is worth a thousand words. Despite this,
some trial lawyers think it is a mortal sin to try a case in an
interesting manner. They seem to think it is beneath their dignity to
make a case a living, pulsating, experience; a vivid portrayal of the
tragedy that occurred. Try a case in a humdrum manner and the result
will be a humdrum verdict. Your lawyer must capture and hold the
imagination and the interests of the jury, as well as garner their
respect. Your lawyer must make the jurors live your case; make them
participate in the joint endeavor of righting a wrong; make them feel
that theirs is the voice of the community.
Sadly, more often than not, this is not done. If
anything, technology has hindered society's ability to "see" through
words. Many jurors, used to watching a drama unfold on television, are
ill-equipped to follow a trial devoid of demonstration. If anything,
the words of the lawyer may do nothing more than lull the juror to
sleep. This is particularly so where complex events occur. In many
instances the only way we can possibly understand the true sequence of
an event is to see it, as well as hear about it.
This having been said, it is also true that a trial
is about moderation. Simply because we can present certain evidence
through a multimedia event, does not mean that we necessarily should.
But where the complexity necessitates the need, and the capability is
present, then not to use the technology will guarantee a bad outcome.
It was only 50 years ago that lawyers struggled to
use a blackboard at trial. Today, plasma monitors, and videotapes of
real-time teleconferencing are commonplace. Computer reenactment,
animation, and utilization of high-tech substances, such as brain gel,
can be used with proper foundation. Dramatic impeachment through replay
of videotaped depositions are now an essential part of any trial.
Blackboards, easels, charts, graphs, PowerPoint
presentations, models, even holograms are used in today's trials. A
proper demonstration of how an accident or injury occurred may be the
difference between a verdict for the plaintiff or defendant. Take the
following scenario into account:
On August 19, 2002,
plaintiff Kim Rasmussen, was operating at his 1997 Ford F-250 pickup
truck on Eureka Road near sunrise Boulevard in Roseville, California.
Plaintiff had earlier been shopping at a Sam's Club, and had departed
the Sam's Club parking lot and was driving on Eureka Road in order to
return home via Interstate 80. Traffic on Eureka Road was stop and go.
Mr. Rasmussen testified that due to stopped traffic immediately in
front of his vehicle, he safely brought his Ford pickup truck to a
stop. With his vehicle at stop, Mr. Rasmussen, enjoying the good
weather, was looking to his left out the driver side window.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Rasmussen, defendant Bruce Robert
Shade had also been shopping at Sam's Club and had departed the Sam's
Club parking lot immediately behind plaintiff's vehicle. Mr. Shade was
operating a 1999 Dodge Durango sports utility vehicle. Mr. Shade
testified that after entering Eureka Road, he was traveling
approximately 2 car lengths behind Mr. Rasmussen's vehicle. Mr. Shade
further testified that due to the stop and go nature of the traffic,
and the downhill grade of Eureka Road, his maximum speed was no more
then 3 to 7 mph.
While Mr. Shade searched for a piece of gum he had
dropped in his lap, Mr. Shade's Dodge Durango rear-ended plaintiffs
Ford pickup truck. Mr. Shade testified that due to the downhill grade
of Eureka Road, he had only lifted his foot off of the brake pedal
(without accelerating) immediately before impact occurred. Total damage
to plaintiff's Ford pickup truck was less than $500. The police were
not called. The plaintiff drove from the scene of the accident in his
Ford pickup truck.
Unfortunately, this seemingly minor rear end
automobile accident caused profound injuries to Mr. Rasmussen. Because
Mr. Rasmussen was looking out his left side window, rotational forces
were brought to bear on Mr. Rasmussen's head and brain. Thy diffuse
axonal shearing occurred of from the saddened acceleration and
deceleration forces involved. When Mr. Rasmussen's head struck the
headrest in the Ford pickup truck, and then went on to move forward in
a rotational movement, the forces microscopically caused axonal shear
to numerous axons with in Mr. Rasmussen's brain.
And so with the above factual scenario in mind, ask
yourself what the best manner of presentation of these issues would be
to a prospective jury. Given that this accident involved seemingly
minor forces resulting from an everyday accident in, how would you
demonstrate to a jury exactly what happened to Mr. Rasmussen's brain as
a result of the rear end impact? The demonstration which follows is
part of the actual trial demonstration utilized by Mr. Scarlett during
the trial of the case. It is important to understand that before the
demonstration was utilized, several hours of foundational testimony
were given by a biomechanical expert. This testimony first established
the vehicle dynamics, including the delta V. computations. Secondly,
the testimony established the human body dynamics, including the forces
working upon Mr. Rasmussen's body at impact. Lastly, the testimony
established that the forces experienced by Mr. Rasmussen were of a
sufficient level so as to cause injury to the human brain. In the brain
gel demonstrative evidence used during this trial was the first of its
kind in the nation. Mr. Scarlett was the first attorney in the United
States to use in the brain gel evidence during trial. I think that you
will agree this demonstrative evidence was extremely forceful in
assisting the jury to understand Hal seemingly minor forces could
result in catastrophic injury and harm.
After Mr. Scarlett's biomechanical expert determined
the vehicle dynamics and the human body dynamics, the expert was in a
position to reenact the forces, together with rotational impact upon a
skull containing brain gel. Accordingly, the front seat from plaintiffs
Ford pickup truck was removed from the truck itself. Mr. Scarlett's
expert utilized a high-speed camera, together with the skull containing
brain gel, along with an accelerometer in order to demonstrate what the
rear and collision, and forces resulting therefrom, did to plaintiffs
brain upon impact with the seat back. Click on the brain and dynamic
testing presentation here in order to see the demonstrative evidence
used at trial .
More About Traumatic Brain Injury Cases
Traumatic brain injury or a closed head injury can occur when the head
is subjected to a direct external impact. Likewise, injury can occur
when the head is subjected to a sudden acceleration and then is
suddenly stopped. A sudden acceleration/deceleration often follows a
violent flexion – extension movement of the head. This response is
extremely common in rear-end vehicle collisions.
The following case descriptions show the power of using modern technology to win jury trial court cases. Click on the links to learn more in detail about these landmark care results.
Scarlett Law Group represented Claude Herndon as a
result of traumatic brain injury which occurred when the stool upon
which Mr. Herndon was sitting fell into a concealed hole in the casino
floor, causing Mr. Herndon to be propelled forward where he hit his
head upon the casino's slot bank table. First, accurate photographs
were taken of the actual location of the fall. Friction measurements
were taken of the table top, together with appropriate documentation of
the concealed hole and stool.
The Scarlett Law Group likewise represented Mr. Jamil Keegan after he
sustained a traumatic brain injury from a construction site accident.
Mr. Keegan's shirt was caught by pipe then being threaded in a pipe
threading machine. The operator was oblivious to the problem
experienced by Mr. Keegan as his shirt became entangled with the pipe,
wrapping tighter and tighter, before Mr. Keegan was thrown over,
striking his head on the concrete workplace floor. The Scarlett Law
Group obtained an identical pipe threading machine, and in essence,
reenacted the accident.
On July 7, 2005, in Rasmussen v. Shade, et al., SCV 14935, Placer
County Superior Court, Lincoln Division, the jury reached it's Verdict
awarding Kim Rasmussen $1,248,024.00 as a result of injuries he
sustained in a relatively minor rear end automobile accident occurring
in Roseville, California. On August 19, 2002, Plaintiff Kim Rasmussen,
was operating his 1997 Ford F-250 pickup truck on Eureka Road near
Sunrise in Roseville, CA. Defendant Bruce Robert Shade caused his 1999
Dodge Durango to rear end plaintiffs' pickup at about 7mph - 12mph.
Plaintiffs truck sustained $498.00 damage to the rear bumper. Despite
the relatively minor property damage, counsel was able to establish
that the rotational forces were sufficient to cause Mr. Rasmussen to
sustain a traumatic brain injury. Leading experts throughout the United
States testified on behalf of Mr. Rasmussen, and the Jury's Verdict
should ensure that he receives the future medical care he so
On April 7, 2005, plaintiff Celia Shi's life was forever altered
when a COACH USA Grey-Line Tours Bus made an illegal left-hand turn
striking Ms. Shi in the crosswalk.
After being struck by the tour bus, Ms. Shi was thrown to the ground
and sustained skull factures with internal bleed. Ms. Shi underwent
four life-saving surgeries with the expert neurosurgical team at San
Francisco General Hospital, led by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Geoffrey
If you or someone you know has been injured
or suffered Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI,
you need the assistance of The Scarlett Law Group.
today to speak with a California Personal Injury Attorney.