There are certain legal standards that apply when one litigation requests that the court permit a jury to visit an accident scene. A jury viewing is seldom necessary and, if it is warranted, a jury can be bussed to the locale. Johns v. First Union, 777 A.2d 489 (Pa. Super. 2001). The paucity of recent case law is evidence of the rarity with which a jury view is ordered.
If there are many photographs of the accident scene and the visits to the scene by the expert witnesses, several lay witnesses have also been to the accident scene and can testify about the conditions, the jury will be able to weigh this evidence and make proper findings of fact without visiting the scene itself. Although photographs are never as revealing as the reality they depict, juries are called upon to rely on photographic evidence in virtually every trial. There is no reason why the jury will not be able to do so.
Any jury view would have to take place in the month of the accident to simulate the conditions. The jury view would have to take place on a day with weather conditions similar to those present at the time of the accident. Since it will be impossible to produce the same amount of ambient light during a jury view, such a view will necessarily confuse the jury. T
In exercising its discretion, the court may consider the potential benefit of the view to the jury in its deliberations, as weighed against the difficulty and expense of arranging for the view and the evidence already adduced at trial. Higgins, supra. Regardless of the venue of the trial, it is extremely unlikely that the court would trouble the jury to travel to the accident site to view what is already shown in the photographs and described in detail by the expert and lay witnesses. Given the time commitment and unnecessary expenses necessitated by bussing the jurors, counsel and the trial judge to the accident location, and the danger of confusing the jury, defendant’s request for a jury view of the accident site should ordinarily be denied.
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Evan Aidman is the founder and principal of the Law Offices of Evan K. Aidman. Mr. Aidman received a Bachelor's Degree in psychology from the University of Florida where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society after compiling a near perfect scholastic record. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, an Ivy League Institution, in 1983.
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