A good Victim Impact Statement clearly delineates how a victim’s life has changed since the incident (accident or criminal act) that caused the injury. The Victim Impact Statement is one of the most important tools an attorney can have when it comes to obtaining a favorable settlement before going to court, and an absolute necessity for presentation to the judge and jury. The first step in preparing a Victim Impact Statement is a good interrogatory.
Most attorneys will hand a client an extensive questionnaire as soon a person seeking a settlement signs on as a client. This list of questions is the first step in creating a Victim Impact Statement; it may be, and should be the most intrusive list of questions the client has ever seen and is known as an interrogatory. Blacks Law Dictionary defines an interrogatory as “A set or series of written questions drawn up for the purpose of being propounded to a party, witness, or other person having information of interest in the case.” As indicated in the definition the respondent (party being sued) and witnesses, as well as the client, will be asked to fill out an interrogatory and declare that the answers given are true; although the type of questions vary greatly, for example the interrogatory sent to the respondent will be focused on financial status.
The client’s interrogatory should include some very intimate, perhaps even embarrassing questions, and should be answered as completely as possible because these questions will be used as the basis of the Victim Impact Statement, and no detail is too small or unimportant. The client cannot know how a particular piece of seemingly insignificant information will affect an award, which is why they hired an attorney; the client needs to answer all questions in the interrogatory as fully as possible.
Deposition is also a critical aspect of the Victim Impact Statement, The party, (or parties) is sworn in and asked questions in person, this will be recorded either by a court reporter, voice or video recording and is taken under oath. Deposition is valuable process because it allows the attorney to ascertain how the parties conduct themselves, does the client present as honestly suffering, or is the jury going to take an immediate dislike to him/her or their voice?
The Impact Statement
Preparing the Victim Impact Statement usually requires spending some time with the client, and may actually be performed by a trusted paralegal or legal assistant. The Statement should be written so that the reader or listener, (insurance adjuster, mediator, judge or jury) feels the victim’s pain and humiliation at the loss and should relate how each aspect of the client’s day is colored by the occurance. This Statement should detail exactly how the client’s life has changed because of the event.
The order of the steps may vary from attorney to attorney, and some lawyers may eliminate one step or another depending on the case. However, most attorneys find a really good Victim Impact Statement can make or break the case.