A number of video production companies create personal injury videos for use in legal proceedings, including litigation, mediation, and arbitration. But is it appropriate to turn to celluloid in a case?
Videos that show how an injury affects a plaintiff, or how an accident occurred, can be helpful to a decision-maker like a juror, judge, or arbitrator. However, such videos can also be challenged on a variety of grounds.
Here are some common types of videos used in personal injury cases, along with their pros and cons:
- Deposition Videos. Video depositions allow jurors to watch a person's body language and may also function as a powerful tool for witness impeachment. But if you surmise you'd "perform" similarly to Lil Wayne in a deposition video, filming a depo video can potentially do you more harm than good. Also, keep in mind that videotaped body language may be misleading for certain individuals, such as second language speakers, disabled people, people with social anxiety, and those without enough social anxiety.
- "Day in the Life" Video. The primary goal of a "day in the life" video is to record the daily routine of the plaintiff, providing a visual of the difficulties a plaintiff faces in performing everyday duties. It's a way to demonstrate the plaintiff's physical injury and actual damages.
- Wrongful Death Video. A video on wrongful death is essentially an "in memoriam" piece, examining the life of the victim and showing how the sudden passing has affected family and friends. While a video of this nature may add a nice personal touch to the case, it's the financial loss or injury that's the main measure for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Plucking heartstrings will only get you so far. Showing how the victim's death financially impacted the family, on the other hand, can be highly useful.
- Accident Reconstruction. A video that visually brings to life lay or expert witness testimony of how an accident unfolded can be an incredibly useful tool in determining fault and damages. Such visual aids may be created through video or video animation and may include evidence photographs and police reports. But like all of the above, these videos raise potential hearsay evidence issues.
Is the Video Admissible in Court?
In addition to the hearsay hurdle which must be cleared before an injury video is admitted into evidence, a plaintiff generally must also be able to prove that:
- The injury video is authentic (i.e., it wasn't staged or manipulated);
- The video is relevant to understanding an issue in the case; and
- The video's probative value outweighs the prejudicial aspects of the video (i.e., that the emotionally charged evidence doesn't hinder the truth).
The admissibility of personal injury videos will differ, depending on the circumstances of your case and what you're trying to prove. And remember that the opposing party can try to object to the video's use for a variety of reasons.
So if you think you're ready for your close-up, it may be best to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer first.