In Part one of Trial Attorney Should Be a Guide Not an Advocate I discussed trying a personal injury case in the hero centered model of most plays and movies. This article will give give more examples of using the hero centered story telling format in a trial.
I previously wrote about the book Twelve Heroes, One Voice by Carl Bettinger. In that book Mr. Bettinger recommended trying a personal injury case in the model of a hero centered movie or play. This is the outline that virtually all movies and plays are written in and which is familiar to and easily followed by jurors.
I have tested the hero centric format by watching the On Demand channel on our cable TV. I recently watched a movie called “The Eagle”. It was about a Roman officer who goes to Roman Britain. He saves the life of a slave who then guides him north of Hadrian’s Wall and assists the Roman in his quest to find the Gold Eagle Standard of a lost Roman Legion. The hero, with the aid of the guide, fights the uncivilized tribe that has seized the gold eagle legion standard and returns with it as a victor. The movie followed the hero centered storytelling format exactly. You may want try ityourself on the next movie you watch and test the theory.
It is not my belief that you can win a personal injury case by simply putting on the case in this particularstory telling format. I do believe that, using this format, you may be able to keep jurors focused on the story you are telling instead of ones they develop on their own.
The reason that this format appears so powerful to me is that the jurors are already used to hearing and seeing stories in this format in movies or television shows. Since the jurors’ minds are already set up to receive your story in this familiar format you can best serve your client by trying the case with this story structure.
A difficult part of trying a case in this format is that the trial lawyer has to change himself or herself into a story telling producer and director. This is hard for us who have all been taught to try to win for our client by bringing in loads of facts and evidence. The fact is that jurors are bored to death with facts and evidence during most trials. If you can present the trial in a way that is custom built to hold their attention you should use it.
The characters in the hero centric story format, modified for a trial, are as follows:
Villain (the defendant is the villain first, then the hidden insurance company is revealed as the ultimate villain),
Guide, (The plaintiff’s trial lawyer)
Hero (Starts out as plaintiff but turns into jurors)
THREE ACTS WITH EIGHT SCENES MAKE UP THE HERO CENTERED STORY FORMAT
- Hero is living a normal life. (Both plaintiff and jurors living their respective normal lives)
- Hero’s everyday life goes along as usual. (Plaintiff is uninjured and jurors are not involved with the law)
- An event happens that adversely affects the life of the hero. (Plaintiff is injured in accident and juror is called for jury duty)
- Hero must reluctantly go forward into a new and different world and save the day. (Plaintiff reluctantly enters new world of an injured plaintiff and juror answers summons for jury duty)
- Hero meets a guide who explains who the villain is, assists the hero but leave it up to the hero to defeat the villain. (Jurors meet you the plaintiff’s attorney who can be their guide if you earn their trust)
- Hero meets the villain, discovers the falsehood the villain is telling to protect the villain’s self interest, and fights the villain. (Plaintiff’s attorney shows the jury that it is the insurance company running the defendant’s whole case for its own self interest and jurors start to become the hero)
- Hero overcomes some inner doubt, fear or misconception of what is the truth and defeats the villain. (Jurors come to understand that they are being lied to by the defense, that the defense attorney is not fighting for a client but is working for only the best interests of an insurance company while making believe that it is all about defending the defendant sitting at the table.)
- Hero returns home having put things right and saving the day. (Jurors overcome their pre-conceptions that there are too many lawsuits, that big verdicts raise insurance rates and other beliefs and render a fair and significant verdict for plaintiff)
To Be Continued-Part 3-Translating the Hero Story into a Personal Injury Trial
In part 3 of this blog article I will use a rear end car accident trial as an example of using the hero centered story telling format. I hope you follow and join me for it.