Computer Animations vs Simulations: What is the Difference?

We live in an age where our jury pool watches CSI, History Channel battle re-enactments, and movies on iPods.  To say we are visual society is an understatement.  How can lawyers maximize technology to better communicate facts showing liability why an engine failed to the modern juror? 

 The first step is understanding the differences between computer animations and simulations. 

 A computer animation has the following characteristics:

  • Moving pictures not intended to simulate an event.
  • Authenticated by a sponsoring witness with personal knowledge of the content of the animation.
  • Showing that it fairly and adequately portrays the facts and
  • Helps illustrate the testimony.

 See, Lorraine v. Markel American Insurance Company, 241 F.R.D. 534, 559 (D. MD 2007)

 A computer simulation has the following characteristics:

  • Scientific Evidence
  • Generally detailed and realistic recreated computer image of the event that can be manipulated.
  • Can be portrayed from different angles or from the viewpoints of different witnesses.

See, Verizon Directories Corp. v. Yellow Book USA, Inc. E.D.N.Y., 2004 331 F.Supp.2d 136, 138

 Both animations and simulations can be very powerful in proving your case.  An animation requires a person with knowledge of the event to explain what is being presented.  Conversely, a simulation has far more science involved requiring expert testimony.  The witness will have to explain how the simulation was created.  More importantly, there might be challenges if the simulation does not have the correct lighting from the time of day.  There are additional prejudicial risks if the accident reconstruction is too graphic. 

 Regardless of what method you use to illustrate complex issues to a jury, it is imperative to recognize we have a visual society and there are tools to communicate.  

 …and as a special to Bow Tie Law Blog, here is an example of what not to use in trial…

Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg from 2013 to 2016 and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.