Services: Day Documentary

Day-In-The-Life Documentary

The purpose of a "day-in-the-life" documentary is to portray the consequential damages a plaintiff has sustained because of an incident. There is no reason to record all normal activities of the plaintiff in such a documentary. The jury must see and understand just how a plaintiff's life has been changed.

Attorneys who wish to use this form of video evidence to present damages should be mindful that calling it a "day-in-the-life" of the plaintiff might subject the evidence to attack. It is better not to give it a specific title at all when you're trying to get it admitted as evidence. Simply call it a video recording of the plaintiff and add the date it was recorded. For the purpose of our discussion in this article, however, we will use the newer title, "Activities of Daily Living" commonly referred to as an ADL.

It is critical at this stage in the development of video evidence to understand that an ADL documentary is not inherently inflammatory, nor is it made for the purpose of arousing the sympathy of the jury. This is a frequent point of criticism and if true for a specific tape it is a well-founded ground for exclusion.

If counsel's sole purpose in making such a documentary is a focus on the pain and suffering of the plaintiff, that evidence, more than likely, will be held inadmissible. That is not to say, however that any grimaces or other evidence of pain that naturally arise from an activity in which the plaintiff is engaged should be eliminated.

The point of the ADL documentary is to honestly and accurately portray how plaintiff's normal living has been altered as a result of his or her handicap. You should never focus or dwell on the pain.

One of the central issues in a personal injury case is the damage the plaintiff has sustained. That is very difficult to measure. The purpose of the ADL documentary is to help the jury measure the injured person's loss.

It is not possible nor practical for a jury to spend time in the plaintiff's own environment observing how routine obstacles become insurmountable barriers to a handicapped individual. A video documentary depicting the plaintiff in his/her environment fills that void.

Individuals who have learned to live with devastating handicaps, when asked to "tell their own story" tend to greatly minimize their predicament. As a result, they're often "bad witnesses" on their own behalf. An ADL that fairly, honestly, objectively and accurately portrays plaintiff's altered lifestyle lets the trier of fact see its affect and the video evidence will speak for itself.

Making an ADL video recording of an injured plaintiff is especially beneficial to help plaintiff's attorney understand the loss. It puts him or her into the plaintiff's own environment, where the recording is being made. Only there can counsel begin to understand the enormity of the injury.

Having seen an ADL documentary before trial, defense counsel will appreciate the extent of the damages. This kind of video evidence tends to have a negative psychological impact upon one's adversary. Judges have held that "video documentaries depicting plaintiff's consequential damages are the best form of evidence the jury has to evaluate damages." If jurors fully understand the injury and its impact, then and only then can they intelligently place a value on the case.

American Guild of Court Videographers
Luis Gomez, CSVS
Board of Adv. Member