Too often at the Jehl Law Group we see cases of neglect and abuse of seniors. We hear about loved ones who have had infected wounds, broken bones, and other traumatic injuries. Sadly, clients tell us tales of people left for hours on end unattended, who are found lying in their own excrement by family members who come to visit them at healthcare facilities. Most often we hear about nursing home residents who develop pressure sores or bed sores, which are wounds that develop destroying the skin and underlying tissue when nursing home staff fail to turn or reposition residents with limited ability to move. In such cases, the testimony of a witness describing the wounds or lack of care can be very powerful, but oftentimes a photograph can have even greater impact. However, there are several things to keep in mind when obtaining a photograph to make sure that it is admissible at trial and also helpful in your loved one’s case.
In order for a photograph to be used in court, it has to be properly authenticated, which is a legal term that basically means a judge has to determine that a picture shows what you claim it shows. The court wants to make sure that the photograph is not photo-shopped or a picture of someone or something else. That might sound complicated, but it is actually pretty simple. In order to “properly authenticate” a photo, the person that actually took the picture or someone else that was present when the picture was taken needs to be able to testify that the picture accurately represents what the picture shows. For example, if the picture is of a wound, the person who took the picture or a person who was present when the picture was taken simply needs to testify that the picture accurately depicts the condition of the wound at the time the picture was taken. In order to do that, it is helpful if the person testifying can answer these questions: when was the picture taken (the more specific the better), where was the picture taken, and does the picture accurately depict the wound? Thus, it is always best to ask a health care provider to take and provide you with photographs of any wounds. You should not remove bandages yourself or touch a wound, as this can increase the risk of infection.
Just because something is admissible, does not mean that it will be useful in your loved one’s case. Here are a few things to keep in mind: