InFocus

the official blog of eTrial communications

Geographic Information Systems and Litigation 101

Rocky Flats Plant – a basic overview of site identifying specific locations of interest at the plant site.

Rocky Flats Plant – a basic overview of site identifying specific locations of interest at the plant site. Click to enlarge.

According to GIS.com, “GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts.”

The use of GIS information in litigation is a recent phenomenon and became widespread in the late 1980s through engineering firms. Today, people are more aware to the uses of GIS through mainstream programs such as Google Earth. GIS is important to litigation because most spatial concepts cannot be understood without a visual medium.

GIS visualizations are a powerful tool for the courtroom as they represent layers of complex data in a visual friendly way. Today’s courtrooms have moved beyond paper and two-dimensional presentations. Understanding the power of GIS information will increase your case’s persuasive power dramatically.

What makes GIS truly unique to litigation is applying graphic overlays and analysis to your data and revealing the information organically. You may be revealing a pattern, or understanding the value of a location by integrating new information about the context of a location.

Rocky Flats RAC Average Dose for Class Members – a layered GIS aerial depicting how much potential hazardous material exposure there was in the area (millerems is how you measure radiation exposure). Click to enlarge.

Rocky Flats RAC Average Dose for Class Members – a layered GIS aerial depicting how much potential hazardous material exposure there was in the area (millerems is how you measure radiation exposure). Click to enlarge.

What types of cases can I apply GIS technology? Any type of case that is tied to location or has a spatial component – environmental, medical, insurance, real estate, class action, product liability and financial cases.

Since the end product is based on data and the maps are based on fact and typically supported by an expert witness you have a recipe to create a presentation that has more intrinsic value than a graphic alone. GIS can be used to create cutting edge presentations that make the complex simple.

ETC is a full service communication and graphics consultancy ready to answer strategic questions about space, time and data as it applies to your matters. We partner with Kim Zielinski, an expert consultant from Data Display Inc, who is dedicated to GIS solutions for litigation.

Hazardous Material Shipments- Each map represents the same data, yet tells a very different story about the number of hazardous material shipments between 1948 and 1993.  The map on the left shows a "Nationwide Epidemic" while the map on the right depicts the locations of "90% of hazardous material shipments."

Each map represents the same data, yet tells a very different story. Left is "Nationwide Epidemic", right shows 90% of hazardous material shipments from 1948 to 1993.

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