Question: Are photos of injuries always admissible in civil cases?
Answer: Usually yes, but a trial court judge may rule that a photo is inadmissible when it is found to be irrelevant, immaterial and/or prejudicial to the defendant.
The admission or rejection of photos into evidence lies largely within the sound discretion of a trial judge. A judge’s ruling on evidentiary issues relating to the admission into evidence of photos will not be disturbed by the appellant courts, unless there is found to be an abuse of discretion by the judge in allowing them into evidence. For a photo to be admitted into evidence, it must first be allowed by a judge with a showing that the photo tends to prove or disprove some material fact in issue at trial. Also, the photos must assist the members of the jury, while not confusing or unduly prejudicing the jury against one side or the other. Further, the admission of a photo that does not shed light on the issues and only arouses the passion of the jury may constitute reversible error, as does the admission of a photo whose danger of unfair prejudice outweighs its probative value.
Furthermore, Indiana Courts hold that there is difference between photos showing a decedent in his/her natural state following death and photos which shows the body after it has been altered by an autopsy. In some cases, the former is relevant and admissible, while the latter may not. Each case will be very fact sensitive as to the admission of this evidence.