Unfortunately, our society tends to have a “blame the victim” mentality. Psychological studies have shown that when a person initially hears about someone else suffering a catastrophic injury, that person has an internal response of self-preservation and tries to reconcile the victim’s tragedy against their own fear of facing the same fate in the future. The observer does this by rationalizing how his or her own behavior would have been much different from that of the victim.
The observer often fails to consider that the cause of the victim’s injury may likely have been the reckless and often greedy behavior of another person or corporation. Sadly, it is all too common nowadays that people act recklessly and corporations act greedily. For example, we have all seen people yapping away on a cell phone while speeding through a red light. One only need to turn on the television or to spend 30 seconds on the internet to learn that some financial institution has been caught stealing from the retirement accounts of individuals, or to hear on the radio that a car company was skimping on inexpensive and proven safety measures simply to save a few dollars for its shareholders.
At The Ellsley Law Firm, our focus from the beginning of the case is deeply investigating these bad actors and obtaining the necessary evidence needed to prove to the decision-maker that had the same actions not been taken before the fateful incident, our client’s life would not have been destroyed. We frame the evidence so that the trial is a trial of the Defendant.
Our presentation raises the following key questions: “What did the defendant know and when did they know it?”, and “Why did the Defendant not take the minimal steps required by applicable law, industry standard, or in many cases, their own rules and procedures, that in all probability based upon the Defendant’s own experience would not have caused the horrible incident?”
Throughout the litigation, from cases involving nursing home neglect and elder abuse to cases involving dangerous products and pilot errors, we use the defendant’s own policies, procedures, and guidelines against them to show just how wrong the conduct was that caused our client’s injuries.
We make sure that the focus of the trial is one in which the jury is judging the decisions, actions, and omissions of the Defendant and not focusing on what the Plaintiff might have done to avoid becoming a victim.
Although every client is unique, and the facts and circumstances of every incident are different, each case requires that we prove both liability and damages. The term “liability” means fault. It is the question of who is at fault for causing the victim the damages that were suffered. The term “damages” refers to the physical and mental injuries suffered by the victim as a result of the incident. “Damages” also refers to the economic losses that result from the incident. From the moment we are hired by a client, we are preparing that client’s case for the final argument at trial. This means that we are constantly looking at all of the facts and circumstances concerning liability and damages from the perspective of the jurors who will be evaluating the case at trial. This ensures that we are presenting the case in its best light to the liability insurance company during settlement negotiations.
When an incident occurs, critical evidence must be gathered, assessed, and analyzed by the appropriate experts. For example, in a catastrophic highway collision case, we immediately dispatch an accident reconstructionist engineer to the scene and obtain a recent aerial photograph of the area. We also gather and preserve the available evidence. Assessment will be made of the damage to the vehicles involved, as well as of the physical evidence on the roadway and in the surrounding area. We will determine the point of impact, the final rest of the vehicles, whether any visual obstructions may have existed, as well as any other attendant circumstances. Furthermore, witnesses will be identified, located, and interviewed. It is important that these activities are conducted quickly, and that information is accurately documented.
To prove liability in other types of cases, it is often necessary for us to hire experts of different types of specialties. For example, in a case involving two planes that collided while in flight, we will retain a radar specialist and an aviation accident reconstructionist engineer. Working together these two experts are able to analyze all relevant computer data as well as the physical wreckage of the aircraft to reconstruct how the incident occurred.
Similarly, in a product defect case involving the failure of a plastic component part of a larger product that explodes, we will hire a university research professor to conduct numerous tests and analyze how the particular material failed. We will work with materials scientists who use high resolution microscopic cameras with laser technology to pinpoint the fracture locations on the failed component part.
In a case involving a construction site incident involving the failure of general contractors and sub-contractors to follow federal, state, and local laws as well as industry guidelines, we retain an architect, a structural engineer, and a code enforcement specialist to review and analyze what occurred and provide their expert opinions as to what should have happened had those responsible acted in a reasonably safe manner.
When it comes to proving to the jury that the damages caused to the victim are quite significant, we regularly work with medical specialists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, life care planners, and economists. These professionals help us prove the actual anatomical and physiological injuries and the true value of the economic losses resulting from these injuries. Such losses normally include the loss of future earning capacity and the high costs of future medical treatment. By working with these experts, we seek to achieve a settlement or verdict that will permanently secure the victim’s future.
In addition to providing the jury with the highest quality medical, scientific, and economic experts regarding the issues of liability and damages, we also utilize numerous video production related resources to assist the jury in seeing the case the way we see it. For example, in a motorcycle crash, our attorneys use the latest computer aided accident reconstruction technology in order to provide a DVD video accident reconstruction simulation so that the jurors can see with their own eyes a visual representation of the opinions of the accident reconstructionist as to how the accident occurred. We also utilize still images and informative graphics to illustrate our case theories.
We invest considerable amount of time, energy, and expense in creating video simulations and video documentaries to use in the settlement conference room as well as in the courtroom. These are short videos detailing a day in the life of a victim and his or her family. We believe it is important to present the true evidence of how the incident has physically, emotionally, and economically injured the victim as well as the victim’s family by providing video interviews to the insurance company and to the jury. We also use video footage of the post incident rehabilitation process so that the viewer is able to truly understand how difficult it has been for our client along the way.
We have found that jurors will generally feel the way we do about a case if they are taught about the subject matter of the case by highly-experienced experts with strong personal communication skills. Complementing the presentation of these experts is our use of high-quality audio-visuals. As much as possible, we try to present the case to the judge and jury in a manner that encourages the use of all of the senses in evaluating evidence.