Discrete injuries in the lower cervical spine facet joints have been reported in studies of motor vehicle crash victims. We conducted a detailed investigation of these joints from 20 motor vehicle crash fatalities and 22 decedents due to nontraumatic causes, using conventional radiology, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging to examine whether the diagnostic imaging procedures could identify injuries in the facet joints. The diagnostic imaging procedures identified facet joint fractures in 4 of the 19 trauma cases with computed tomography having the highest sensitivity and obtaining good correlation with findings from the microscopical evaluation. No diagnostic imaging procedure could reliably evaluate the integrity of the synovial folds or the joint spaces for bleeding despite microscopical evidence of such findings in these structures in a large proportion of the motor vehicle crash fatalities. This study emphasizes the need for scientific evidence of validity and reliability of advanced diagnostic imaging procedures in forensic settings, in particular, with regard to occult soft tissue lesions, and cautions uncritical use of negative results from these procedures until such evidence has been produced.