Adam: Our client was a passenger on a motorcycle. They were approaching an intersection when another car pulled into the intersection against the light. The driver of the motorcycle tried to swerve to get out of the way but ended up hitting the back of the car and ejecting our client. She did six or seven months of treatment with a chiropractor, and then a medical doctor. At this point, she has low back issues, hip issues and shoulder issues. The insurance carrier was Allstate and they had offered her about $23,000 for a settlement. In getting ready for trial, we worked extensively with our Colorado Local Working Group and within our law-firm spending full-length days re-enacting the crash, other significant moments in her life that were impacted by the crash, and in the end, we really got to know her story so we could tell more than just facts to our jury.
Debbie: Because of all the work we did with her one-on-one, when she was on the stand, she was “in the zone”! She was completely in the moment, talking in present tense and taking everyone in that courtroom, especially the jury, right back to the scene of the accident! Because of her injuries, we didn’t want to get her off the stand to do re-enactments, so we had her direct Adam instead.
Adam: It worked pretty well. Before she was injured, she was a massage therapist and she would give pretty vigorous deep tissue massage. During the Opening Statement, I got up on our table and re-enacted a massage to show the jury how much energy and strength it required. I told them that she was also a runner, and after the accident, she would try to go running and would get a few blocks out and all of a sudden her back would start to spasm and she would be forced down to the ground, in kind of a crunched posture, to alleviate the pain. That was another moment that I re-enacted for jury while I was doing her direct, and I could do it pretty accurately because of all the preparation work we had done with her prior to trial. I knew exactly what she looked like when the spasms began!
How was your Local Working Group helpful to you as you prepared for this trial, Debbie?
Debbie: They were invaluable! In addition to several re-enactments leading up to the case, we practiced voir dire with 10 TLC grads in our office on the Saturday before. They spent the whole day with us. Adam practiced his opening, I practiced voir dire and we brainstormed a ton of other issues that might come up — a bit about cross examination, a little about our Closing Argument and what we were going to ask for. We knew exactly what we wanted to give our client justice and we were really prepared to ask for that. I felt so honored and privileged for their help — and support. We had people there who have been practicing law for many, many, many years give their time. To have that level of dedication from our local working group of people, it was just amazing.
What happened in the trial?
Debbie: Adam did the Opening Statement. The other side had admitted fault so we didn’t have to talk about that. But we did describe the scene to show that he ran a red light and our client was ejected into the air and smashed against the pavement and was wearing a helmet (thankfully!). The end result was a jury verdict for $100,000 for non-economic costs, $150,000 for economic damages, and $238,000 for permanent physical impairment. Significantly more than the $23,000 that the insurance company initially offered.
How did your TLC experience make a difference?
Debbie: Probably in this case, it was how well prepared we were. If we had been worried about not being prepared, and not really knowing our case, and not only what happened, but how her life was affected by the accident, then we would not be able to be spontaneous, creative and in the moment — which is one of the key goals of the TLC method! You can’t do any of that if you’re unprepared, and the TLC methods in the rest of the trial skills won’t work if you’re fumbling around, trying to remember what happened and how your client’s life has been forevermore affected.
Adam: We knew the case better than anybody in the court. We knew the medical records better than the doctors did. So like Debbie said, preparing the case with the TLC methods allowed us to be spontaneous in the courtroom, which was then easy for the jury to listen to us and identify with us. TLC methods were sprinkled throughout the entire trial. A lot of the questioning of our witnesses was done in present tense, trying to keep that going through the whole time to keep the jury engaged.
Debbie: This case was about discovering the story, and then telling the story.
Adam: For me the most personal moment was my closing. I started the closing with this trust/betrayal villain and the righteous indignation structure and then went into damages and then ended with a personal story about my mom, who has been a runner her whole life. She has been slowed down by some foot problems and I related that back to my client. That is where I felt in the TLC moment – because it became really personal for me at that point.
Debbie: It’s about not being married to your script. Going with the flow and what you feel. Being prepared and not being full of anxiety and nervousness. It allows you to be in touch with your feelings which you have been using to make decisions on where to go along the trial.
Congratulations Debbie and Adam!
You can work directly with Debbie and the rest of the incredible faculty at the upcoming Psychodrama workshop at the Thunderhead Ranch, June 24-28.
– See more at: http://triallawyerscollege.dca360.comPost.aspx?g=74920ab8-fe48-449a-bb21-b748e95d2e6d#sthash.KJwDlnQz.dpuf