The Role of Legal Video

Video is a powerful medium that serves many purposes ranging from entertainment and education to acting as a witness by documenting people, places, and events. In the legal industry, video plays a commanding role both inside and outside of court. The applications of legal video are as varied as the cases that are filed. Three common ways that legal video is used are as an informational tool, as an eyewitness, and as a tour guide.
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Legal Video as an Informational Tool
Video is often used to provide background information to the parties involved in a case. If a case involves a specific procedure and it’s important for all parties to understand how the procedure is normally carried out, a video detailing the process can be effective. For example, if a case involves an automobile accident where an aftermarket windshield failed to support the car’s roof, a legal video showing the car manufacturing process, explaining federal motor vehicle safety standards related to the windshield, and featuring windshield-specific crash tests would be informative and illustrative. This same video could show the contrast between factory and aftermarket auto glass installations as well as detail the theories behind the failure of the glass in this particular case. Informational legal videos can oftentimes illustrate complex topics and tell a story through pictures more effectively than a speaker or written text could.

Similarly, “day in the life” videos are regularly used to illustrate a participant’s life either before or after an incident, or both. For example, if the car accident severely injured an occupant, a day in the life video could illustrate exactly how that person’s life has been impacted by the accident. While the victim could appear in court in a wheelchair, a video showing her daily struggles to eat, bathe, and get around could be more effective at detailing the accident’s impact and long term effects.

Legal Video as an Eyewitness
Legal video is regularly used to record and preserve testimony as is done in the case of legal depositions. In addition, in some cases, video may be admissible as evidence such as security surveillance tapes, videos filmed by private investigators, and videos that captured an accident or other event as it occurred. For example, what if a red light camera captured the car running a red light just seconds before the accident occurred? What if a passerby happened to catch the accident on video?

Legal Video as a Tour Guide
Another common use for video in a legal setting involves taking the parties involved in the case to locations that otherwise might not be accessible or practical. For example, in a case involving an accident at a manufacturing plant, it might not be practical to take everyone to the factory to see the equipment and the working conditions involved. However, sending a single cameraman to the scene and presenting the video to the parties involved in the case can serve the intended purpose.

Legal Video Guidelines
Legal videographers must follow specific federal, state, and local guidelines and regulations concerning legal video evidence. Because of this, it’s important to select a videographer who specializes in legal video and adheres to all applicable regulations.

Attorney Tips For Legal Video Depositions

When attorneys take legal video depositions, it is to preserve a witness’ testimony before trial. That person may not be available on the trial date, or the lawyers may want to show their testimony to other people. There are a number of things that attorneys can do to make the job of the legal videographer and deposition reporter easier and, therefore, create a cleaner, more accurate record.
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Speak clearly into the mike. The videographer will request that everyone wears one, even if they do not anticipate talking or questioning during the deposition. Try to limit coughing, throat clearing and making low off-the-cuff comments while the legal video specialist is on the record.

Do not shuffle paperwork near the microphone during the videotape deposition. This may block out some of the audio record. One way to prevent this is to organize all paper exhibits beforehand.

When using a laptop for a video deposition, be sure to turn it on before going on the record, not during the deposition. People sometimes forget that computers make musical sounds while booting up. This can drown out important words and make it difficult for other people to hear what is being said.

Court Reporters
Keep in mind that the job of the court reporter is to take down a written record. Speak slowly and audibly. As a rule of thumb, deposition reporters will not interrupt a videotaped record. Sometimes they wish they could. Be courteous and do not speak while others are speaking. The court reporter can only take one person’s words at a time. Interrupting while another person is speaking not only clutters the video record, but makes it difficult to make an accurate written record.

Some items are edited out of a video deposition before it reaches court. This may include attorney objections or testimony that cannot be heard by the jury according to a judge’s ruling. Try to carry on as if there will not be any editing done. Lawyers and witnesses should not make any extra comments that they do not want everyone to hear. Do not count on them being removed in the editing process. This takes extra time, costs more money for the extra efforts and there is no guarantee the other lawyer will agree to having something removed that makes their opponent look foolish or arrogant.

All parties should pronounce and spell their names for both the deposition reporter and videographer. Lawyers’ firm names and addresses should be on a business card. If the individual is by telephone, they should give out their information before the deposition begins. Those with the best intentions often forget to do it at the end and hang up abruptly. This makes it difficult and time consuming for the court stenographer to track down the right information.