Settlement Documentary: Visual Persuasion in Litigation

Settlement Documentary: Visual Persuasion in Litigation



Visual Persuasion in Litigation


Settlement video documentaries are sophisticated video presentations produced specifically for pre-trial mediation and settlement. The sole purpose of these settlement documentary videos is to convince the opposing parties it is in their best interest to pay maximum compensation now rather than risk a jury trial later.



A well-crafted settlement video incorporates the key factors of a case and visually weaves them into a cohesive television-style documentary presentation. The effect is profound as it not only provides a humanizing portrait of the plaintiff; it individualizes the case and forces the opposing parties to take notice. In addition, the settlement documentary can be an effective tool used to present critical evidence and prove damages, thereby justifying the demand letter and increasing the value of the case. Professionally produced legal video documentaries are powerful forms of communication that have an impact on the viewer like no other medium can.


Day-in-the-Live Videos vs. Settlement Documentaries


Day-in-the-life videos are primarily utilized in personal injury cases to document, without prejudice, the plaintiff’s daily activities and the impact the injury in question has had on their lives. Typically, day-in-the-life videos are presented in trial for jurors to witness the plaintiff’s condition as they go about their day. The content of these videos are subjected to rules of evidence codes (see Day-in-the-Life Admissibility) and are in stark contrast to what settlement documentary can cover.


Unlike day-in-the-life videos, settlement documentaries include many more aspects of a case and they are not limited by admissibility rules. Therefore, they can broadly and dramatically represent the issues of liability – duty, breach, causation; the extent of harm; loss; economic and non-economic damages. Of course, the degree to which a settlement documentary focuses on these issues is determined on a case-by-case basis. All-in-all, a settlement video can succinctly establish for the viewer, in the simplest terms; the who, what, when, where, how and why – all in about 15-20 compelling minutes.


Every case has a story


What was the plaintiff’s life like before the incident? Who is liable? What are the damages and why should the opposing party pay compensation? These and other questions can be addressed with on-camera interviews of expert witnesses, key family members and deposition testimony of the key players. The interviews may be intertwined with before-and-after photos, demonstrative recreations, police reports, medical imagery, day-in-the-life footage and other visuals. Professional narration is included throughout the video to guide the viewer through the sequence of events. A professional settlement video will deliver the case theme and events as if the matter is being presented as a television documentary such as Dateline or 20/20.


The television-style documentary has the ability to unveil a captivating depth about the plaintiff and the circumstances surrounding the case; much more so than the written word can convey. There is no doubt, presenting the case information in this documentary format makes for a convincing and powerful presentation.


Damages


The most important issue to be addressed in the settlement video is damages. The documentary must clearly demonstrate for the claims administrator and opposing counsel how the plaintiff’s life has been altered, what the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries are, as well as current and future needs.


While presenting damages, it is imperative to highlight the likeability and sympathy as it relates to the plaintiff and their condition. Post-injury portrayals in the form of day-in-the-life videos can be incorporated into the settlement documentary in such a way that the opposing parties are forced to fully realize the pain and suffering the plaintiff is experiencing. Interviews with key family members and life care planners also assist in individualizing the case by associating it with a name and a face; not just a case number with a value assessment. This portrayal of the plaintiff can be the emotional catalyst the case needs to persuade the opposing side to settle. However, when demonstrating the plaintiff’s suffering, the documentary must remain authentic; staying true and accurate to the facts and circumstances.


Gilding the Lily and Other Extremes


Gross or even subtle exaggerations may cause opposing counsel to dismiss the video presentation as deceptive and not take the demand seriously. Overstating or over dramatizing events can reflect poorly on the entire video presentation and cast suspicions about the validity of the case.


On the other side of the pendulum, presentations that lack compassion or understate the emotional impact of the case; may disserve the plaintiff as much as gilding the lily. Broadcast journalists and deposition videographers hawk their wares for producing legal videos, but they often lack the narrative skills and patience of a long-form filmmaker. A newscast-style video presentation may not garner the sympathy or compassion the plaintiff deserves and therefore will not illicit a compulsion to settle the case.


A properly constructed settlement video will balance the factual and emotional facets of the case. The documentary will faithfully portray the extent of the damages without heroics and hold true the emotional expressions of the participants. It will not stage or exaggerate events for the sake of dramatics. Remember, the sole purpose of the settlement documentary is to persuade the opposing parties it is in their best interest to settle the case instead of proceeding to a jury trial. Dabbling in deception may reduce that probability.


Bolster the Case


A cohesive, logical and persuasive settlement video presentation can educate the opposing party of the merits of a case. It also can demonstrate the credibility, preparedness and commitment of plaintiff’s counsel. Settlement videos may be presented as the plaintiff’s opening statement, or it may be submitted to the mediator and opposing counsel several weeks in advance so that they may adequately prepare for settlement. No matter how it is used, settlement documentaries are a highly effective tool. Seeing is believing.








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