Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The True Value of Computer Animation

Most cases don’t settle, or are very challenging to settle, and end up in trial because there are grey areas in the case - situations or testimony which can be interpreted in different ways. Computer animation is often thought of as an effective, albeit expensive, way to show events. Research tells us, however, that there is a much more compelling reason to use computer animation.

Computer animation makes your interpretation of the event or situation concrete. There is always flux, indeterminate issues within any accident or event reconstruction, which the opposing experts will argue at length. But once the jurors see and hear for themselves your version of said reconstruction, they are far more inclined to believe it. And computer animation is an easy, immediately understandable, way to present your belief of “what happened” in a way that makes it real.

That being said, the facts must be solidly incorporated into the animation. Jurors will pick at the slightest incongruence between the known facts (skid marks, length of surgical incision) and the animation, and the persuasiveness of your animation will be destroyed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Win the Battle of the Experts

Considerable research has been devoted to figuring out how jurors decide among competing experts, which one to believe.
Not surprisingly, jurors are suspicious of expert motives, and assume that each expert will be biased toward the side that hired the expert.
However, setting that aside, jurors then pay close attention to the disagreements between the experts, how much of the evidence each expert actually speaks to, and how what the expert says fits with the overall presentation of testimony and evidence.
All this is well and good, and reminds us of how important it is for experts to consider their opinions within the context of the entire case.
But the true demarcation, that which often makes one expert the “truth-speaker” for the jurors as opposed to another of the experts, is the plain-spokenness of an expert. Jurors appreciate straight-forward opinions and testimony.  Jurors are suspect of an expert who can only render his or her opinions in jargon or otherwise technical language that impedes juror comprehension.
Lawyers, so thoroughly steeped in the case that they hardly recognize obscure language as such (because they’ve been using it in depos, in motions, etc. for the life of the case)  don’t facilitate the process for jurors because the lawyer is just as likely to ask questions using technical terms as the expert is to respond in like manner.
Get the jurors on your side by prepping your expert to speak in juror-friendly terms.
Refresh your awareness of what jurors will and won’t understand by presenting your expert’s opinions to a focus group. Or to your 15 year old nephew. Either will let you know in no uncertain terms whether the language your expert uses is credible and convincing.