The way a car accident attorney should represent an injured plaintiff in trial should not be as an advocate for that person. Rather, says author Carl Bettinger, the plaintiff’s ttorney should serve as a guide to the jurors who have stepped into a new and different world. The events should be presented like a movie or a play and the laintiff’s attorney should be the guide.
In Twelve Heroes,One Voice, www.trialguides.com , Carl Bettinger explains that the way plays or movies that we see are structured is the best way an attorney for an injured person to put on a case. He talks about the fact that all of us are used to hearing the same structure, which he calls the Hero Centric story.
In such stories, the hero always goes through the following:
- There is a problem in the village.
- The person who will eventually become the hero hero, although reluctant to get involved, is called upon to do so.
- The person who ultimately will become the hero must go out into a new and different world to do so.
- In the new and different world the hero meets a guide who will help the hero against a villain.
- The hero finds a place where the villain lives and enters into a struggle with the villain.
- In the struggle the hero discovers something that changes the hero in some new and better way.
- The hero returns to the village with what the hero has discovered and saves the day.
How Does It Work In a Trial?
The trial should be structured like a movie or play, following the above structure. This is the way that the jurors’ minds are already programmed to hear and process information. Why not use it to help the jurors understand the truth as you are presenting it?
First, you need to define the characters.
- Villain– The defendant must be the villain. The hallmark of the villain is that the villain puts the villain’s interests ahead or over those of anyone else. In some cases the defendant is refusing to accept fault for the harms and losses the villain has caused. If the villain accepts fault the villain is then refusing to accept responsibility for the harms and losses the villain has caused. In either case the villain always puts self interest ahead of fairness.
- Guide– The hero will meet someone to guide the hero but not to tell the hero what to do. This is the role which must be played by the attorney. To do so the attorney must earn the trust of the jurors. To do that the attorney must not to argue or advocate the case. The attorney must only direct the play and put on the facts in the Hero Centric format.
- The injured plaintiff – The heroic characteristics of the plaintiff should be shown. Examples are refusing to let the injuries defeat the plaintiff or other admirable traits. The injured plaintiff cannot, however, be the hero. The reason is that the plaintiff does not have the power to change the villain’s selfish actions. That is why the plaintiff is in court. The plaintiff needs help and for someone to save the day.
- The hero – Since the hero is going to return to the village and fix the problem, who in the courtroom can do that? Only the jurors can do that. The judge can’t do it in jury trial. The attorneys don’t have the power to do that. The only ones who can become heroes are the ones with the power, the jurors. The jurors are the ones who will have to come to understand that some of their beliefs need to change so that they can fix things and write a wrong.
How Does This Work In the Basic Story Telling Structure?
To see how this works in a trial, just go back to the above structure and substitute the word juror for hero. The steps in the above story structure are the steps that the plaintiff attorney, acting as a guide ,must take the jurors through so that they can become heroes.
What Jury Beliefs Will Be Changed to Do Good?
Through using the Hero Centric story structure and the attorney acting solely as a guide you hope tochange ingrained prejudices such as if the jurors award money
- more lawsuits will be encouraged.
- the plaintiff will go out and spend it foolishly,
- the jurors insurance rates will go up.
What Information Does the Guide Try to Provide Information about For the Hero to Change Beliefs About?
Here the attorney-guide simply puts on the facts that prove the plaintiff’s case.The case will be stronger because the attorney is presenting it in a story format that the jurors minds are already programmed to receive. In addition, the jurors come to a change of mind through their own realization of the truth of the facts, not the power of the attorney advocacy.
Many books on trial practice talk about the importance of storytelling. Although good story telling attorneys agree, it is hard to put into practice for those of us who are not natural story tellers.
This book, however, makes it easy to put on a good trial as a story. It only involves approaching the trial as a play or movie, using the Hero Centric story telling structure to put it on and the attorney acting as the guide and not the advocate.
John P. Burns