Admissibility of Videotape in Florida Personal Injury Trials

The widespread use and inexpensive nature of technology offers evidence for trials today that would not have been available earlier in history. Videotape is one type of technology that has impacted personal injury trials. In a recent case, a plaintiff challenged a trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendant Geico Casualty Company on the basis of videotape evidence.

The plaintiff brought the case after his back was hurt while traveling on a bus that got into an accident. The plaintiff required treatment and multiple surgeries. He sued the driver of the other vehicle as well as Geico, his underinsured motorist carrier.

The plaintiff claimed a permanent physical injury plus $250,000 in past medical expenses. Because his injury was permanent, he argued he deserved future medical expenses. Geico countered that the plaintiff had a pre-existing degenerative condition and argued that he didn’t need all of his surgeries and procedures.

During the lawsuit, the plaintiff settled with the other driver. His case against Geico went to trial resulting in a jury verdict and award of $20,000. The jury did not find he had a permanent injury and therefore did not award future medical expenses.

During trial, Geico had presented surveillance camera footage — time-lapse videos that showed only 4-5 frames per second, rather than real-time videos (29-30 frames per second). Geico’s attorney argued to the jury that they would get to see the accident occur on the videotapes. Geico’s accident reconstruction expert relied on the tapes for his testimony as to the speed and distance the bus traveled.

The plaintiff appealed on the grounds that the trial court should not have permitted the time-lapse videos into evidence. The trial court overruled his objections.

When the plaintiff appealed, the appellate court explained that a videotape is admissible if it is relevant to any issue that is required to be proven at trial, unless it is excluded by a rule or is unduly prejudicial. A videotape must fairly and accurate represent what an attorney claims it depicts.

The plaintiff had stipulated that the videos were in fact from the bus on the day at issue. Therefore, the appellate court explained that it could not say the trial court had abused its discretion in determining the videos fairly and accurately depicted what happened on the bus that day. The appellate court also explained that the trial court had not abused its discretion in rejecting the plaintiff’s argument about the prejudice that might result because they were time-lapse, not real-time videos.

The appellate court explained that still shots would be accurate representations of what happened and time-lapse was just like four to five still photos showed one after the other rapidly.

The plaintiff also made an argument related to his letters of protection from various health providers. Geico’s attorney showed part of a letter on the projector during the trial and questioned the doctor. The attorney asked whether the doctor would hold the plaintiff responsible for the full amount of the bill in light of language that suggested he would reduce the bill in the letter of protection.

The plaintiff argued that this line of questioning could have led the jury to think that if he obtained a limited award he would not be prejudiced because his doctors would agree to a reduced fee. He argued that the letters of protection were collateral source evidence, which is inadmissible at trial. Collateral source payments cannot be used to offset a tortfeasor’s liability.

The appellate court disagreed. It explained that the provisions in the letters of protection didn’t involve third-party payment and therefore weren’t collateral source evidence. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision.

If you are seriously hurt because of somebody else’s negligence, contact the knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank toll-free for a free consultation at (877) 448-8585.

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