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Attorneys Win Cases With Animations

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 presentation."2

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 alone."4

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 expert's data.

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 more.

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.

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Last updated: June 26, 2011 12:55 PM