Most legal professionals use various kinds of technology in the courtroom to bolster their cases. One of these technologies is trial graphics. Trial graphics help attorneys summarize and visualize the important facts of a case, connect different pieces of their client’s stories, and convey the important facts of the case to a jury.
Read on to learn more about the trial process and how trial graphics are created and presented. Discover whether trial graphics are admissible in court and the advantages of using trial graphics.
What is a Trial?
Before we delve into trial graphics and how they’re used in trial presentations, you need to understand what a trial is. In civil and criminal cases, a trial is a structured process where parties present facts of a case to a jury.
During the trial process, both sides’ lawyers use witnesses and evidence to prove to the jury whether the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s losses. The defendant is the person or entity being sued, and the plaintiff is the person or entity filing the claim. The judge acts as the impartial party and decides what evidence can be shown to the jury.
How Trials Work
Trials unfold in the following manner:
First, the two attorneys pick the jurors for the case. They randomly pick at least six (for criminal cases) or 12 (for civil cases) jurors from a list of prospective jurors compiled from voter registration records.
Opening statements let the attorneys summarize their clients’ accounts of events as they relate to the case. These statements are usually short and don’t involve evidence or witnesses.
Presentment of Cases
Next, the attorneys present their cases. They do this through:
After the opening statements, the plaintiff’s attorney examines his first witness. During direct examination, the attorney can introduce evidence that gives credence to the plaintiff’s version of events. Once this is done, the opposing attorney can cross-examine or ask questions to the same witness. Cross-examination aims to question the credibility of the witness.
After cross-examination, the plaintiff’s attorney can ask the witness final questions to clarify contradicting or confusing points for the jury. The judge ensures that all questions asked and the evidence presented are relevant to the case. In most situations, the judge will prohibit hearsay evidence — testimony based on what a witness has heard from another individual.
The process repeats itself for the remaining witnesses brought by the defendant and the plaintiff.
During witness examination, either lawyer can object to a piece of evidence or question. For instance, the defendant’s attorney may object to:
- The use of hearsay
- The wide range of direct examination questions if they are beyond the witness’ knowledge
- The witness not answering the question properly or talking about issues irrelevant to the case
- The attorney arguing with the witness, rather than asking questions
Once all the witnesses have gone through direct and cross-examination, the attorneys will prepare for closing arguments. Closing arguments are the last chance for the lawyers to speak to the jury. It’s a great time to summarize the evidence, testimonies, and arguments.
The judge informs the jury about the relevant laws and what they must do to reach a verdict.
Jury Deliberations and Verdict Announcement
The jury goes into deliberation, which is the process of determining which side they agree with. When the jury reaches a verdict, they tell the judge and the parties in open court.
Unlike their criminal counterparts, civil jurors must come to a unanimous decision unless otherwise specified. The standard of proof in civil cases is “more true than not” or a “preponderance of the evidence.” In contrast, the standard of proof in criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
What are Trial Graphics?
Trial graphics are visual aids that help the jury understand complex subjects and information for cases. They are more than just pretty pictures; they summarize who the victims are and how they have been damaged. Trial designers also use certain colors, graphics, designs, and sizes to match the themes of the case.
Examples of trial graphics include:
- Photography and videography: Lawyers’ cases depend on whether they can show juries exactly what they’re talking about. A graphic design team can make that happen by creating compelling still photographs and videos with transitions, special effects, titles, voiceovers, and audio overlays. Depending on what the lawyers want, graphic designers can create anything from reenactments to day-in-the-life videos. They can also use existing videos and photos to highlight what lawyers want juries to focus on.
- Illustrations and diagrams: Whether it’s a vehicle accident, a broken medical device, or a broken elevator part, graphic designers can create detailed illustrations and diagrams that help the jury understand the issue. These illustrations often come with organic legal terms and labels to summarize findings.
- Interactive trial animations: Graphic designers can create top-notch 2D and 3D animations to tell even the most complex story with impact and clarity.
- Timelines: The right graphic design expert can create compelling timelines that communicate the sequence of events in a case. Graphic designers can use a variety of approaches, from under-illustrated to extremely detailed.
- Scale models and 3D printing: Some graphic design firms can design and print 3D and scale models. Lawyers and expert witnesses can use scale and 3D models to demonstrate the damage suffered by a plaintiff, such as spinal cord damage leading to permanent paralysis. They can also use scale models to display architectural defects and spills in premises liability cases.
Who Is Responsible for Creating Trial Graphics?
Trial graphics are usually created by trial graphics teams, which consist of experienced analytical thinkers, lawyers, researchers, and trial graphics designers. They work with law firms and lawyers to create compelling graphics for various types of civil cases, including:
- Bus accidents
- Car accidents
- Construction accidents
- Industrial injury
- Motorcycle accidents
- Offshore accidents
- Premises liability
- Product liability
The person responsible for creating trial graphics is typically the Trial Graphics Designer or Trial Graphics Artist. They typically have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and several years of experience working with trial graphic firms and lawyers. They should also have the following skills:
- A deep understanding of Windows OS and macOS
- The ability to use various graphic design and animation software, including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, PowerPoint, Keynote, Autodesk Maya, CelAction2D, and Cartoon Animator 4
- Graphic design skills, including design and composition, typography, graphic design, logo design, and print production
- Strong communication and presentation skills
- The ability to turn cases into easy-to-understand visuals and animations
Are Trial Graphics Admissible?
Yes, trial graphics are admissible or usable in court. They are frequently confused with computer simulations, which are not admissible because they use a complicated set of calculations that can affect the foundation of an expert witness’s opinions. However, trial graphics are distinct from computer simulations because trial graphic animations only represent accurate facts.
Nevertheless, the opposing side will probably try to challenge the admissibility of a trial graphic or animation. If that happens, attorneys should follow these procedures to ensure their trial graphic or animation is admissible in court:
- Share trial graphics or animations with the opposing side as early as possible: Lawyers should try to submit their animation or graphic to the opposing lawyer early in the legal process. They should ask the opposing lawyer for their opinion to see if they will raise any objections. The lawyer can then revise the visuals to address their remarks.
- Show the trial graphic to the expert witnesses: Both parties should also discuss the visual during the expert witnesses’ deposition while the opposing lawyer is present.
- Show the trial graphic to the opposing expert witnesses: Lawyers should also show it to the opposing experts to see if they believe it is reasonably accurate. If the opposing expert says the graphic is inaccurate, lawyers should ask them to explain precisely why it is not detailed or precise enough. Eventually, if they accept it as reasonably accurate, the lawyer will be even more confident about the legal graphic or animation’s admissibility.
Advantages of Using Trial Graphics
There are several advantages to using trial graphics:
Create the Best First Impression
Opening statements at trial are a lawyer’s first chance to shape the jury’s perception of their client’s case. In other words, it’s the best place to start using trial graphics like infographics, screenshots, photos, and animations. For example, a lawyer can use photos and diagrams of a car crash and the victims’ life-altering injuries to strengthen the position that the victim deserves the compensation they are requesting.
Simplify the Case
Simply describing what happened during an accident and what compensation victims deserve can be difficult to understand, especially if the case involves multiple people and a complex chain of events.
Trial graphics can simplify the intricacies of a case and transform them into a digestible medium for the jury. For instance, if a car accident case has multiple parties and opposing eyewitness accounts, a legal graphic or animation can make it easier to understand different perspectives and eliminate implausible and contradictory accounts. Similarly, legal graphics and animations can clarify complex cases by highlighting the most important facts for the jury.
Shorten the Length of Cases
Trial graphics can also shorten the length of cases. The longer it takes to settle, the more complicated events and facts may become.
To illustrate, let’s say a medical malpractice case is dragged out for years. Parties would add different doctors, patient visits, and treatments to the narrative, blurring the key narrative and evidence. As a result, the case may take many years to resolve. A well-made legal animation or graphic can make the facts easier for the jury to follow by reminding them what exactly happened and when.
Strengthen Experts’ Positions
Expert witnesses often produce testimony with lots of technical language and concepts. As such, the jury may have difficulties understanding what is going on. A doctor in a wrongful death case, for instance, may go into detail about how the different parts of the pelvis and spine have been impacted by a premises liability accident. The biological terms in this example may distract the jury from his overall argument.
Fortunately, a trial presentation, animation, or visual can increase the efficacy of experts’ positions. A legal graphic team can partner with any expert witness to ensure the trial graphic is accurate. For example, a legal graphic team can partner with a car accident reconstructionist to create an animation video showing how a car broke down and which parts were malfunctioning before and during a fatal car crash. Similarly, a legal graphic team can partner with a doctor to show which parts of a person’s spine were damaged by medical malpractice and what is causing their symptoms and injuries.
Emphasize Available Data
Many cases don’t have enough evidence for parties to settle quickly. While legal graphics can’t fill in the gaps, they can highlight which data is already present. They can also explain more technical information, like scientific and engineering concepts. For instance, a diagram can show how a brake malfunctioned, leading to a fatal car crash.
Strengthen Other Litigation Phases
Trial graphics aren’t just for trial. Both plaintiff and defendant attorneys can use them to support their arguments during:
- Focus groups
- Settlement negotiations and discussions
- Mediation hearings
- Motion practice
Whenever an attorney shows the visual, it will help the audience remember the case’s primary facts.
Graphic designers aren’t just for marketing. They can also help lawyers strengthen a lawsuit by creating diagrams and animations that make the best first impression and simplify a case for jurors. These diagrams and animations can also shorten the length of cases, strengthen experts’ positions, emphasize available data, and strengthen other litigation phases.
If you’re looking for a law firm that uses trial graphics to bolster their positions, look no further than Morris & Dewett’s Louisiana and Texas personal injury lawyers. Experienced, determined, and driven, we know how to use graphic designs to maximize compensation for our clients. Call us today at (318) 221-1508 or fill in this online form to book a free consultation.