Are the Use of Computer Animations Allowed in Court?

The use of computer animations has been used in a courtroom since the mid 1980's.

Published May 18, 2018
By Richard M. Ziernicki, Ph.D., P.E., DFE


The use of computer animations has been used in a courtroom since the mid 80’s. During that time, they have been a part of many my high-profile cases.



I think the most interesting case I have worked on in the past is the Princes Diana accident reconstruction. The accident which happened in a tunnel in Paris. I was involved in investigating this accident right from the beginning. I was involved in the testing of that accident where we did some very advanced testing on the speedway in Los Angeles. We had the entire speedway for the purpose of that testing.


We tried to replicate or reenact the collision between two cars. One car was a Mercedes S-class and the second car was a little Fiat Uno. Although we did not use a Mercedes S-class or Fiat, we used a Lincoln Town Car and a Ford Fiesta to try to duplicate the condition where two cars collided with little damage to the Fiat, or Fiesta in our case. There was some debris of tail lights on the road. We were able, after about 7 hours and so many tries, to finally get a case where nobody was injured, but we got a little bit of interaction with those vehicles. Remember, they were moving at quite different speeds. One vehicle was doing about 70 mph and the other vehicle was doing half that speed.


To clip those two cars without causing a lot of damage was not that easy. It was a very simple concept but very complicated in a real test. Then we did a crush analysis and created the computer animation of that accident. It was a very interesting project.