As your case progresses, it will likely reach a point where your attorneys will discuss the possibility of entering settlement negotiations or participating in a mediation to try and settle the case before it goes to trial. Most courts require some type of mediation to occur in the case at some point before trial, but settlement negotiations can occur at any point in time in your case, including before the case is filed. Your attorney may take different approaches to the settlement negotiations depending on the stage of the case when those negotiations occur, but an element of settlement negotiations that is becoming more frequently used is the creation of a “settlement video.”
A settlement video serves a purpose similar to a written demand or mediation statement. It educates the other side, and the mediator, if one is involved in the negotiations, about the case. Whereas written demand letters or mediation statements set forth the evidence in your case, including the evidence establishing the defendant’s liability and misconduct, evidence about your injuries and damages, and an introduction to you and how the situation giving rise to your injuries and lawsuit have affected your life, a settlement video can help bring those things to life and give the other side in your case a better idea of the case and how you would present it to a jury at trial.
Settlement videos typically include interviews with the plaintiff and his or her family members and friends. This allows the defendant to get to the know the plaintiff better, and to learn about who the plaintiff is as a person and how his injuries have affected him, both physically and emotionally. The defendant will be able to see video footage of the plaintiff’s day-to-day life as a result of the injuries, including things like how the plaintiff now walks with a limp, cannot lift his arms to get a cup out of the cupboard, or cannot dress himself anymore without assistance. The videos will show the emotions that the plaintiff and his family member experience in talking about what happened and how this has affected their lives. If the case involves someone who has died, family members can share photographs and memories about their loved one, and really express the toll that the loss has taken on the family and how much their loved one is missed.
Settlement videos can also help illustrate the injuries that a plaintiff sustained. Animations can show the force of a vehicle collision, and how it caused the plaintiff’s head and neck to move forward and backward, and can highlight the specific part of the neck and spine that were injured as a result of those movements. Illustrations can zoom in on the body parts that were injured, and pictures of broken bones, scars, burns, or other physical injuries can all be included to show the extent of the injuries and physical damages.
Excerpts of depositions taken in the case, particularly of the defendant or defendant’s witnesses, can be included to highlight the ways in which the defendant was acting unsafely, or was unaware of applicable rules and regulations and how they failed to follow those rules. It can be compelling for the defendant to view actual testimony that is harmful to them, the same way that a jury would hear that testimony, and to see the demeanor of the person giving that testimony. Expert witness interviews or depositions also help illustrate how persuasive testimony would be given at trial that establishes the defendant’s liability or the plaintiff’s damages and can be more effective than simply reading about that expert’s opinion.
All in all, a settlement video can be an effective way of presenting the strengths of your case and can be a persuasive tool in making clear to defendants just how valuable the case is, and can give some insight into how jurors would hear and view the case if it were presented at trial. While there are several considerations that go into whether a case is a good fit for a settlement video, including the available evidence, the timeframe to create the video, and the cost involved in creating the video, settlement videos can be a useful negotiation tool in many different types of cases.