At risk of sounding simplistic, every case has two components: liability and damages. The damages are economic and non-economic. The economic damages are a relative cake walk. Save the receipts and add’em up.
But how does one prove non-economic damages? These are the facets of the case defined by the amount of damage to the plaintiff’s human condition. How has the event made the plaintiff miserable? And then, how miserable? How often? To what degree?
In essence, misery can be compensated. If the plaintiff’s life was free from misery prior to the event, and is immersed in misery at present, you want the adjuster to start adding a zero or two to the amount of the check. How does a trial attorney convey this component of a case in order to prompt a more generous offer?
Contrast. Contrast. Contrast. The diesel locomotive that drives the recovery of non-economic damages is contrast. It is vitally important to emphasize the difference between your client’s life prior to the event, and your client’s life now. How has the plaintiff’s quality of life changed? Tap into the facet of your case and you’ll find major opportunities. Present an immutable, authentic story line of contrast and the non-economic damages will drive a successful recovery.
Paper records, in black and white, will yield nothing more than a ‘basic’ elevation. The use of video will put a face with a name and bring your client to light. Most practitioners agree that a great witness or client increases the value of a case. Exploit the fact that your client is a real person, has a family, a job and friends in the community. Show how the injury has limited her daily activities. Video takes the defense counsel and claims adjuster into the daily lives of your clients; shows the ongoing medical care; demonstrates the effect on the client and the family; all the while, putting a face with the client. Video goes where paper records simply cannot.
The use of visual aids in presenting a case is nothing new. Jurors generally respect positively to visual evidence and countless studies show that retention is greatly increased when verbal information is reinforced with complementary audio/visual elements.
Here is a classic example, “I began to make a practice of showing demonstrative evidence to juries: human skeletons, moving pictures, enlarged x-rays, still pictures in color, infrared pictures, wooden scale models,” said the famous trial lawyer Melvin Belli in June 1965. “When the jurors graphically saw the nature and extent of injuries, my client began getting substantial increased awards. And when other personal injury attorneys around San Francisco, then around California, caught on and began doing the same thing, the whole picture of awards began improving.”
Since June of 1965, we have enjoyed an unprecedented explosion of technology and opportunity for the 21st century attorney, due in large part to the internet. Almost any tidbit of information you need is at your fingertips. Google Earth allows instant access to aerial photographs of any stretch of roadway or intersection in the United States- maybe the world- for free! YouTube.com is the people’s repository for all things video. Digital Cable and Satellite Radio have revolutionized the dissemination of information. High Definition broadcasting has such detail that the viewer can almost count the blades of grass on the football field, or count the pores in Eva Longoria’s nose- much to the frustration of Hollywood’s makeup artists.
Everything you thought you knew about technology is obsolete. The opportunities now available to you may be largely untapped, and the visual cravings of your jurors and adjusters are largely underestimated. There are numerous modern day Prometheuses who offer tools to help your practice run more efficiently and your presentations unfold more persuasively.