SCIENTIFIC COMPUTER ANIMATION INTRODUCED TO ONTARIO COURTS
In January 1994, Walter Consulting Corporation gave expert evidence in the General Division of the Ontario Courts using scientific computer animation. The introduction of this type of demonstrative evidence in Ontario's litigation proceedings resulted in a reported success rate of 100 percent by the trial lawyer.
The emerging computer animation field is seen to be particularly useful in complicated disputes. The use of this technology to Canada's advantage wad demonstrated in the boundary dispute with France over the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
To quote one of the lawyers, "This is another arrow in the litigators quiver and one that if it's used well can give a tremendous advantage."
The case which Walters Consulting corporation introduced was a motor-vehicle accident reconstruction. However, the technique is suitable for a broad range of reconstructions, including air craft accidents, fires, failures, personal injury cases such as slip and falls or industrial accidents, environmental cases where it is desirable to see the flow of contaminants or the mixing of different chemicals in the substraights.
The computer animations can be either scientific or a simulation. With scientific animations, the distances, times, motions, speeds, size, and perspectives are all to accurate measurement. Therefore, the observer of the animation is seeing what "really occurred". A simulation on the other hand is used to graphically portray a scenario which approximates the real conditions but does not have the accuracy of a scientific animation.
In a scientific computer animation it is necessary to conduct the detailed engineering measurements, calculations, and analysis prior to producing the animation. This type of detail is not necessary in a simulation.
Reconstruction can be shown from a multitude of different views with an infinite number of positions using a video of the computer animation. It is possible to verify the scientific accuracy of the animation by taking direct coordinate measurements off the screen and comparing those with what were actually measured at the site or calculated using recognized engineering principles and formula. This can be done right in the courtroom, resulting in a high level of judge/jury confidence. The computer program can also be verified to prove the video is accurate. With this assurance, the animation clarifies the evidence and speeds the resolution of the dispute.
The scientific computer animation introduced by Walters Consulting Corporation represented our expert's testimony. It eliminated the use of drawings, schematics, sketches, photographs, or models. When expressed as an animation, his points are made clearer for both the judge and jury. It also assists in accurately presenting other witnesses' points of view. They of course must be in agreement with what they see on the video.
The American trial lawyers are ahead of the Canadian counterparts in the use of computer animations. They already know that they are a good thing. Perhaps the use of contingency fees in the United States means that lawyers are looking for every way possible to reduce the number of hours that they can put into a case because that means their profit in the end is greater. There is also the possibility they many not get paid if they loose the case. They, therefore, want to keep their costs to a minimum. At this point, Canadian lawyers are very cautious.
It is our belief that with the introduction of the scientific computer animation to the Canadian Courts by Walters Consulting Corporation, that there will now be a growing interest in the acceptance and use of this tool as demonstrative evidence in the future.
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