Trials are interesting events. Plaintiffs’ lawyers must recreate events that took place a few years ago. The key to engaging a jury is to make them forget that the events were in the past, and make them come alive for the jury. If the jury experiences the events that injured the plaintiff as if it were happening in the present, the likelihood of a successful result is greatly improved. In a famous case a few years back, involving an airline crash due to inadequate maintenance and an onboard fire, lawyers for the family of a passenger who died in the crash, combined cockpit voice recordings with a computerized animation of the plane’s final descent. The animation was admitted into evidence because it was scientifically matched to data taken from the plane’s black box. The purpose of the animation was to make the terror of the doomed passenger more real than words alone. A 2.2 million dollar verdict resulted.
Computer animations – high tech and expensive – can be very effective. Lawyers shouldn’t discount low tech demonstrative evidence either. In one of my cases, EMTs dropped the stretcher carrying an obese woman, while moving it out of the back of the ambulance, causing permanent injuries. To demonstrate the only way the stretcher could have been dropped, because of lack of coordination between the two EMTs, we rented the exact make and model of ambulance, and stretcher involved in the incident, placed “Rescue Randy” on the stretcher, and videotaped our expert re-enacting the event. Rescue Randy is a dummy used to train many firefighters – as he weighed 200 pounds less than our client, we had to strap sand bags on top of him. The video of the dropped stretcher was highly successful, and helped obtain an excellent settlement at mediation.
Young lawyers sometimes resist the notion of trials as drama, thinking somehow that drama may taint the search for the truth. Dramatic techniques, however, are inevitable when bringing to life events that happened in the past. The key is accuracy, realism, and appropriate restraint. Words are an essential part of every personal injury trial, but words alone will rarely get the best result.