Demonstrative evidence can be a powerful tool for establishing a legal case. In broad terms, demonstrative evidence refers to materials prepared by a legal team to summarize or illustrate other forms of evidence—raw data, witness testimony, collections of photographs, and so on—in a way that will help a judge or jury interpret and understand it. Demonstrative evidence might come in the form of chart, a table, or a map. Critically, demonstrative evidence has been prepared specifically for trial in reliance upon an underlying set of information.
Because demonstrative evidence is created by a party in the litigation it must meet strict standards to be admitted in court, as determined by Nevada’s evidence law. In simplified terms the evidence needs to have the following characteristics:
- Relevance. The evidence must have a connection with a material fact that is at issue in the case.
- Identification and authentication. The sources of facts included in the evidence must be identified and authenticated. In other words, the demonstrative item must not include information that is not otherwise already established in the case. If the evidence presents information that is based on expert analysis or testimony, a qualified witness may need to confirm its accuracy.
- Usefulness. Evidence needs to be useful to the fact finder (the judge or the jury) to be admitted. “Useful” means, among other things, that the information is presented in a clear and accurate way. By definition, the evidence can’t be deceptive, misleading, or confusing. A chart that distorts a critical piece of information, for example by displaying it in particularly large text compared to the rest of the chart, might be deemed misleading.
Demonstrative evidence always poses a risk that it may unfairly prejudice a jury in ways that are out of proportion to the information that is presented. A stark example of this might be a barrage of explicit photographs of an injured person, formally presented to show the extent of the person’s injuries but strategically intended to evoke sympathy. Courts have the option of limiting or excluding demonstrative evidence that might have a disproportionate or unfair effect.
In a personal injury case the central questions tend to be whether the defendant behaved negligently in causing the plaintiff’s injury, and the extent to which the plaintiff has proven the damages that he or she has claimed. Demonstrative evidence can be useful in both areas. Once witness testimony and documentary evidence has been presented to the court, it can be helpful to summarize it in a chart to show how the defendant’s wrongful behavior led to the plaintiff’s injury. Likewise, preparing a table showing all the ways the injury has harmed the plaintiff, from medical costs to pain and suffering, can help the court form a complete picture of all the ways the injury has affected the plaintiff’s life.
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. We work closely with clients to develop winning strategies for taking on difficult challenges. If you have been injured and you have questions about your case, please reach out to us for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.