The Jury Trial as Theater – Part 2
Part 2 – The Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Jury Trial as Theater: Aristotle’s Rules of Drama Can Inform Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Trial Techniques.
This blog post is a continuation of our exploration of how an expert Bronx accident lawyer can use the elements of drama in presenting a personal injury or medical malpractice case to a jury. At Jesse Minc Personal Injury Law, we believe that these lessons can help Bronx accident victims obtain maximum compensation in court, and will put these lessons to work for you if we take your case.
Element 2: The Theme.
The theme of a story refers to its meaning, its lessons and its call to action. What is the message of the plaintiff’s case? What can we learn from what happened to the plaintiff due to the negligence of the defendants? How were the defendants negligent and why are they responsible for the harm suffered by the plaintiff? How can the jury take action to right the wrongs inflicted upon the plaintiff? In a personal injury or medical malpractice trial, the skilled lawyer will use the evidence to persuade the jury that they must right a grave wrong that the defendants have perpetrated upon the plaintiff, and force the defendants to compensate the plaintiff for the harms they have caused. Creating a theme that convinces the jury not only of the plight of the plaintiff, but also of the malfeasance of the defendant, is key to securing maximum compensation for even the most serious of injuries.
As with creating a persuasive plot, maintaining a persuasive theme of a case – the reason why the plaintiff’s claims are true and deserving of compensation by the defendants – requires that the case be presented so as to highlight those elements of the case that give it meaning and compel conclusions that support the plaintiff and show the defendants in an unfavorable light. For example, an injury lawyer presenting a construction injury lawsuit in which a worker fell from a scaffold and injured his spinal cord would want to highlight that safety devices that would have prevented the accident were not provided by the defendants on the job site despite their legal responsibility to provide those devices, and that the defendants failed to provide the proper safety devices because they wanted to save money and get the construction project completed faster. By focusing on the defendants’ failures and greed, rather than on the plaintiff’s actions, the skilled accident lawyer can persuade a jury to send a message that unsafe work practices and greed result in devastating and intolerable outcomes, that the defendants’ conduct was unjustifiable and harmed the plaintiff, and that awarding maximum compensation to the plaintiff will make the plaintiff whole and punish the defendants for causing an unjustifiable injury.
Element 3: The Characters.
In a personal injury or medical malpractice trial, the witnesses – the plaintiff, the defendants, the experts and any other witnesses who may testify – are the most important vehicle through which the skilled injury lawyer presents the plot and theme of the story of the case to the jury. Though other evidence is important to the plot and theme of the story of a case, and often is compelling to a jury in substantiating the plaintiff’s personal injury claims, the witnesses put a human face on the story of the case to which jurors can respond with human emotion, which will drive their empathic and protective instincts – their human desires to help the plaintiff and prevent negligence from continuing to occur – and persuade them to award maximum compensation.
The skilled injury lawyer must determine where each witness fits into the plot and theme of the case before the trial starts, and prepare questioning to ensure that each witness tells their part of the story in such a way as to drive the story of the case and substantiate the plaintiff’s version of events. The witness testimony must tell a consistent and persuasive story; elements that demonstrate the veracity of the plaintiff’s story must be highlighted, bias must be exposed, inconsistencies in the defendants’ stories must be revealed, and facts that may seem to undermine the plaintiff’s plot and theme must be explained in such a manner as to turn them in the plaintiff’s favor. With the testimony of each witness, elicited through tactful questioning designed to obtain answers that support the plaintiff’s case, the attorney, step by step, must not only persuade the jury that the plaintiff’s version of the story is true, but that the defendants’ actions were negligent and that the plaintiff must be compensated.
In dramatic stories, there is always a “protagonist” and an “antagonist”. The “protagonist”, also sometimes called the “hero”, is the leading character in the story, and the character with which the audience usually will be lead to identify and to support. The “antagonist” is the adversary of the “protagonist”, often known as the “villain” in a dramatic work, and works to undermine and harm the “protagonist” as the story progresses.
The plaintiff must be established as the protagonist of the trial if his or her case is to be victorious. Skilled defense attorneys may try to paint the plaintiff as unsympathetic and antagonistic to the defendants (by painting the plaintiff as culpable and out for a payday, and their claims as frivolous and undeserving of compensation), thereby flipping the roles of the parties to the case and undermining, if not totally discrediting, the plaintiff’s version of events. This cannot be allowed to happen if the plaintiff is to be successful; the skilled injury lawyer will pain the plaintiff as the hero of the story, get the jury rooting for him or her to succeed, and convince the jury that his or her injuries are the fault of the defendants.
In our next and final installment of this article, we will further explore how the elements of drama can be applied by expert Bronx accident lawyers to convince a jury to award you the compensation that you need and deserve if you are injured. Our expert Bronx medical malpractice and accident lawyers have the expertise needed to put these lessons to work for you in your case. Call us today at (718) 354-8000 for a free consultation.