Medical illustrations are an important tool in proving damages in a plaintiff’s personal injury case. A medical illustration is a visual depiction of an injury or a procedure performed on the injured party.
When a medical expert explains how a person was injured, many medical terms are used, and the average juror is unfamiliar with most medical diagnoses, procedures, and human anatomy. Medical illustrations are a beneficial tool for educating a jury and showing them the significance of the injuries claimed.
For example, if an orthopedic surgeon explains to a jury that a car accident caused a C5-6 disc herniation causing compression on the spinal cord, jurors will take that information in, but it is unlikely that they will retain it completely. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that a jury would truly understand and appreciate the significance of the injury. The medical illustration below does a better job of demonstrating the injury than any description could:
With one illustration and an x-ray, a medical expert can point out and physically show the jury what injuries a party suffered during a car accident. Research has demonstrated that humans are visual learners and can retain more information for a more extended period with visual aids.
Medical illustrations can also take it a step further by showing a jury the medical procedure performed on an injured party. For the car crash victim’s injury described in the example above, an orthopedic surgeon had to perform a discectomy at the C5-6 vertebrae. The series of illustrations below explain that the surgeon starts by making an incision in the patient’s neck to access the cervical spine, then remove the disc between the two vertebrae, placing an implant in the space, and securing it with a metal plate, and four screws.
A jury could understand and retain some of this information. Still, it is significantly more likely that a jury would have a better appreciation for this procedure with the help of the medical illustration.
This medical illustration is so powerful that an average person can look at it and understand what was performed without any narrative. Combine this with a medical expert explaining what this procedure is and why it was performed, and you will leave the jury with a complete understanding of your client’s injury and procedure.
How to obtain medical illustrations
Medical illustrations are an excellent tool for a trial lawyer. However, they are costly because they need to be prepared by trained medical illustrators knowledgeable in human anatomy, medical procedures, and terminology and are prepared based upon the client’s injury-related medical records. Many companies provide these illustrations, and a party just needs to give these medical illustration companies a copy of the medical reports and any films taken of the injured party. A medical expert will then draft several illustrations, as seen above, along with the corresponding procedure.
Medical Illustrations as Demonstrative Aids and Evidence
First and foremost, after the medical illustrations are drafted, we show them to the medical expert to confirm that they are true and accurate representations of the injuries and procedures performed. Without that key piece of testimony, they are not admissible evidence. Once your expert confirms the medical illustrations are true and accurate representations of the injury or procedure, the expert can discuss those medical illustrations at trial. They can be shown to the jury as demonstrative aids.
Demonstrative aids are diagrams or other types of visualization that helps a witness explain their testimony to a jury but are not admitted into evidence. Demonstrative aids help explain testimony to a jury and create a visualization of it. The next step would be to try to move your medical illustrations into evidence.
An important difference between exhibits being admitted into evidence versus demonstrative aids is that anything admitted into evidence goes into the jury room with the jurors for consideration during their deliberations. The jurors can refer to any exhibits admitted into evidence when they are deciding the case. Conversely, when demonstrative aids are not moved to evidence, the jury has to rely on their memory of how that demonstrative aid was presented at trial. In short, it is preferred that medical illustrations be moved into evidence so the jury can see them during deliberations and not have to rely on their memory.
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