Attorneys Win Cases With
Scott J. Taylor, C.D.P.
This is a condensation of an article published in 7 states. The full, 4-page
version with accident graphics is available by calling the author. Permission
generously granted by Scott J. Taylor of Tetra
Animations to reproduce it here.
In this era, use of mediation and
arbitration encourages attorneys to seek out new tools which catalyze early
settlements. Computer animations are just such a tool. Affordable animations are
increasingly being used by attorneys to provide a technological edge to promote
early settlements, enhance settlement valuation, and complete case theory. An
analysis of the effectiveness of 63 sample case animations in eight states over
seven years indicates that 65% settled before trial and 84% settled in favor of
the clients, who were both defendants and plaintiffs.
Effective visual animation proves to be very useful for attorneys and judges
alike. Judges, for example, are increasingly encouraging animations to
facilitate pre-trial settlement or to demonstrate information to jurors. In
South Carolina State and County Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs,
Federal Judge G. Ross Anderson, Jr. has emphasized, "Computer animation
allows attorneys to convert witnesses' verbal testimony into dynamic, visual
demonstrations capable of mentally transporting jurors to the scene. It is
difficult to imagine a more effective tool for enhancing a case
A 1992 American Bar Association study on jury comprehension demonstrated what
every litigator knows: "complex fact patterns often leave jurors
confused...Jurors reported difficulty deciding critical issues as a result of
the sheer volume of information."3
The secrets of high jury comprehension are in the statistics.
"Seventy-five percent of what we learn is received visually...Only ten
percent of information delivered verbally is remembered after three days. More
importantly, sixty-five percent of information delivered both visually and
verbally is remembered after three days. Thus, the combination of verbal and
visual delivery of information is six times as effective as verbal delivery
Return on Investment - A conservative analysis of 63 cases
indicates that settlement increases or decreases have often returned animation's
costs by several times over; many by tenfold, and some even greater. Further,
expensive litigation is minimized owing to earlier settlements before or during
trial. To additionally reduce costs, it is usually not necessary for the
animator to visit the site of an accident. Instead, the animator relies upon the
Case Theory Completion - One of animation's greatest benefits to
attorneys is the by-product of comprehensive case theory completion, as all
timings, speeds, skids, and impacts must be determined prior to completing an
animation. Seldom is it necessary for the animator to visit the accident site
since ample information is usually provided by the expert. For complex cases,
such as multiple vehicle collisions, the animation analysis process would be
almost impossible to replicate with a calculator alone. Timing interrelationship
of all objects becomes clear, and witnesses can critique whether or not the
scene corresponds with their memories. Additionally, animation helps find timing
inconsistencies among witnesses for the expert to evaluate.
Expediting Settlements - One of the greatest benefits of
animations is to facilitate earlier settlement and thereby reduce litigation
costs, because the conclusions of case theory are clearly and completely
presented in a rapid fashion. In eight states over seven years, 65% of the 63
analyzed cases settled before trial, a high percentage considering the very
controversial nature of these cases. Many of the cases that did go to trial
settled before a verdict. An increasing trend is to include animation as part of
the initial settlement package request, even before a suit is filed, to
illustrate a case's strength.
Types of cases - Vehicle accidents comprised 65% of the 63 cases
studied, including complex multiple vehicle accidents, rollovers, whiplash
injuries, night lighting, obscured visibility, rain/fog, and medical injury
illustrations. The remainder included product liability, fire, construction,
patent infringement, nautical, railroad, flood, soil strata dewatering, and
Why it works - Animations provide a quick and easy understanding
of facts, expert-reconstructed engineering data, and portrayal of witness
statements. Animations assure that all jurors receive the same image of how a
witness depicts the circumstances, so that mistakes of imagination are
prevented. Jurors can clearly see the obviousness of the circumstances and the
reasonableness of the action taking place. Further, since most jurors are
experienced drivers, they can readily feel and relive the trauma of the traffic
accident. Animations usually neutralize or prevent confusing cross examinations.
Demonstrative Evidence Requirements - In 1994, Federal Judge G.
Ross Anderson presented his 20-page paper "Computer Animation,
Admissibility and Uses" at a County CLE program. In his paper he stated
that "Admissibility as demonstrative evidence requires the animation to be
sufficiently illustrative of relevant testimony to be of potential help to the
trier of fact. Demonstrative evidence has no probative value beyond that
provided by the testimony it illustrates, and, frequently it is not allowed
before the jury deliberations..."2
Conclusion - Attorneys are increasingly using animations to
facilitate early settlement, improve case value, and complete case theory.
Animations provide all jurors with consistent and memorable perceptions of the
facts, expert reconstructions, and witness statements. Technology has provided
the trial attorney with another new and invaluable tool.
1 Scott J. Taylor, CDP, in 1993 pioneered the first animation admitted in a SC
court. His papers have been presented to the Advanced Trial Lawyers Association
CLE program in Keystone, CO, as well as the SC Annual State Bar Meeting CLE
program. He has funded and taught numerous attorney CLE programs about trial
animations at the state, county and firm levels. He is expert-qualified in
Federal, State, Magistrate, and Criminal Courts.
Scott Taylor may be contacted in Greenville, SC at TETRA Inc. (864-288-1961).
2 Federal Judge G. Ross Anderson, Jr. and Ward Bradley, Law Clerk, Computer
Animation: Admissibility and Uses, paper presented in a County Bar CLE
presentation, Greenville, SC, 12/9/94.
3 Roy Krieger, Sophisticated Computer Graphics Come of Age -- And Evidence Will
Never Be the Same, A.B.A. J., Dec. 1992.
4 Vogel, Dickson & Lehman, Persuasion and the Role of Visual Presentation
Support: The UM/3M Study, Management Information Systems Center, School of
Management, University of Minnesota.