I Relied on TrialPad for Ipad in a Medical Malpractice Trial… Here’s What Happened

For years I’ve used Trial Director for big cases, and simple things like blowups on posterboard for small cases. (Why posterboard? There are never any “technical” glitches, never a difficulty finding an outlet in a 100 year old courtroom, etc with posterboard).

This year I decided to switch it up. I bought an Ipad, and downloaded TrialPad for my trial presentation. It’s a $90 app, which made me swallow hard, but then I remembered the price of Trial Director, and I figured I’d give it a shot.

My plan was to try it out with a smallish dog bite case I was going to try in Iowa. That case settled the week before trial.

“Screw it” I said (or at least thought)… “I’m going to use it for this med mal.”

Of course, I started learning the software well in advance, so I’d have time to fall back to Trial Director if it didn’t work out.

It worked out.

Here’s what TrialPad was able to do:

  • Put exhibits/depositions up on the screen
  • Callout/highlight portions of exhibits
  • Use the laser pointer tool like, well, a laser pointer
  • Hold or freeze on one exhibit while I search for another

I did not use TrialPad for video depositions, although that feature is available. Why not?

  1. Too much potential for something to go wrong. The courtroom had a DVD player wired into the system. Why add another element (the Ipad) that could go wrong?
  2. Hassle of uploading the file. I’d have to take it off of the DVD, put it on the computer, put it on dropbox (assuming I even have that much dropbox storage available), and download it from dropbox onto the Ipad. Pain in the ass.

As usual, there were bells and whistles on TrialPad I don’t even know about, just like with Trial Director. Everything I described is typically all I would do with Trial Director as well.

As it was, I survived five days of a medical malpractice trial using only an Ipad for trial presentation.


1. Cost

2. Space-saving.

TrialPad saved me a lot of space at counsel table. With Trial Director, I would typically have a laptop, scanner, big book of medical records/trial exhibits, and my notebook/pen. With TrialPad, I have my Ipad, and my notebook/pen.


1. The highlighter and callout functions aren’t as precise as I’d like. If you want to call out or highlight a passage that begins in the middle of the page and goes on to the next sentence, you have to include more unnecessary stuff than you would in Trial Director. The highlight function draws a yellow box, as opposed to working like an actual highlighter. It’s still readable, but not precise.

All in all – I will definitely use TrialPad again!!

I also used a website/app called Prezi for opening and closing. It allows you to create neat, interactive infographics that are usually more interesting and fancy looking than the typical powerpoint. It took a little getting used to, but really made for a nice presentation, and I will definitely use Prezi again.

In speaking with jurors afterwards, they were impressed with our use of technology. My case? Maybe not so much. On to the next one.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in Rock Island, Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com). 

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Stephen King Tells You How to Start an Opening Statement

This is what happened.

If you’re the type of person who reads legal blogs and trial advocacy books to learn how to give a good opening statement, you know you have to grab the jury’s attention. None of this “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. What I’m about to tell you is not evidence. It’s like a roadmap that I think will help you blah, blah, blah” crap. Grab the jury. Lead them where you want them to go.

I’ve always been a big proponent of the Keenan/Ball (mostly Ball) opening statement:

Good morning.

A driver is required to stop at stop signs (or whatever).

If the driver does not, and as a result hurts someone, the driver is responsible for the harm.

Now let me tell you the story of what happened in this case.

It’s clear. It’s succinct. It tells the jury what to look for without telling them how to think. It might not be the best start to a novel – but that’s not what we’re trying to do. Or is it?

Consider this article from the Atlantic where Stephen King discusses his favorite opening lines from books.  Say what you will about Stephen King, but he knows writing, he knows what’s popular, and he knows how to grab someone’s attention. His favorite opening line?

This is what happened.

For me, this has always been the quintessential opening line. It’s flat and clean as an affidavit. It establishes just what kind of speaker we’re dealing with: someone willing to say, I will tell you the truth. I’ll tell you the facts. I’ll cut through the bullshit and show you exactly what happened. It suggests that there’s an important story here, too, in a way that says to the reader: and you want to know.

A line like “This is what happened,” doesn’t actually say anything–there’s zero action or context — but it doesn’t matter. It’s a voice, and an invitation, that’s very difficult for me to refuse. It’s like finding a good friend who has valuable information to share. Here’s somebody, it says, who can provide entertainment, an escape, and maybe even a way of looking at the world that will open your eyes.

That’s exactly what we want to do with our opening statments, right? I mean… really exactly.

“This is what happened” is so close to “Now let me tell you the story of what happened in this case” but yet so different. David Ball makes some good points about the use of the word “story” – we’re familiar with stories, we have learned to listen to them since we were little kids, etc. I’ve always bristled a little at it because “stories” aren’t always true. I read stories to my three year old daughter every day – and none of them are true. Stories are what your drunk uncle bores you with – where everything is exaggerated to make himself look more interesting.

I don’t tell stories in opening. I tell the jury what happened.

Of course, there is a story to it. There’s a narrative about how someone broke the rules, did something that put people in danger, hurt someone, the victim struggled and got better (or not) and the victim’s life was changed, etc. There’s a method to telling that story too, but that’s for another day.

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer from Rock Island, Illinois. He practices personal injury and medical malpractice law in the Quad Cities area, including surrounding areas of Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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So William Shatner is doing ads for a “local” law firm – what does that mean?

A certain firm (I won’t link to them) has been flooding the Iowa airwaves with TV ads featuring William Shatner. We all love Shatner, right? He’s Captain Kirk! He’s Denny Crane! He was on that episode of the Twilight Zone where the Gremlin attacks the plane!

So if this firm could get William Shatner’s support, they must be pretty good, right?

Well, here is William Shatner shilling for some other law firms:

Some firm in Bakersfield California

This one in Virginia

This one in Detroit

You get the idea. There’s a company that cranks these ads out for law firms all over the country. Sometimes they claim to be “local” and say the name of your community when they are in, say, Wisconsin. 

That’s not to say that firms who use these ads are bad lawyers. Or good lawyers. I’m sure some are good, some are bad – all have a good advertising budget.

Just know what’s going on. Do your research when picking a lawyer. 

(Howard Zimmerle is an attorney with Warner & Zimmerle. We have offices in Rock Island Illinois and Davenport Iowa. We don’t claim to have other offices. William Shatner has never said our name, to the best of our knowledge. You can reach us at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com). 

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US Supreme Court Helps Insurance Companies, Screws Injured People

The US Supreme Court decided US Airways v. McCutchen today, allowing insurance companies to write their way around the common fund doctrine and similar law, and taking money away from injured people.

Make no mistake – this is a big deal.

See, the world used to work like this:

  1. Step 1: Person gets injured.
  2. Step 2: Health insurance company pays medical bills.
  3. Step 3: Injured person hires attorney, spends time, money and effort to settle case with tortfeasor. 
  4. Step 4: Injured person pays insurance company back, but keeps a fair percentage (typically 1/3 of the lien) for the time, money effort and attorneys fees spent in obtaining the settlement to pay the insurance company back. Without that effort, the insurance company would have gotten nothing.

Now things are different.

Step 4 now reads “Injured person pays insurance company back the full amount, so long as the insurance company requires them to do so.”

In some cases this won’t be a big deal. For many, many cases, liens and attorneys fees will eat up much or all of a potential settlement – especially in tougher cases, smaller cases, or cases with inadequate insurance. This is a lot of cases.


(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury attorney in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois. He has offices in Davenport and Rock Island. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com).


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Did He Really Tweet that? Careful With Social Media Evidence.

I don’t usually blog about politics or sports, but first I wanted to bring up a couple of things I found extremely newsworthy on twitter…


Fake barack tweet


Pretty sweet, huh? Didn’t even see that in the mainstream media, did you?

fake lebron tweet


I guess the end of the Heat’s huge win streak really took a toll on LeBron, eh?

Of course, that is only if either one of these tweets were real – which they aren’t (duh).

There’s a website that has been making the news lately called Lemmetweetthatforyou. It allows anyone to make a fake tweet under anyone else’s real twitter username. Of course, followers of President Obama and LeBron didn’t see my fake tweets, but these things can spread virally as they did recently with Heisman winner Johnny Football.

Now where does that come in for you lawyers? Obviously I know none of you are going to use this to make up fake tweets for parties in your cases “@johnnydefendant “boy, nothing better than drinking, driving, and running red lights!”. But don’t think that it can’t happen to your client. Don’t get duped by, say, your client bringing in fake social media stuff like this that they might have made in the bizarre hope that it would help their case. And if something like this happens to your client, make sure you understand it and can explain it.

Of course – and I don’t recommend this – this allows anyone to argue against any sort of twitter evidence… kinda like when R. Kelly’s lawyers used the “Little Man defense” to argue that technology has gotten to the point where someone can edit a video to put someone else’s head on someone else’s body, so therefore that sex tape wasn’t mine.

(Howard Zimmerle is a lawyer from the Quad Cities. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com. His twitter handle is @HowardZimmerle).

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Warner & Zimmerle Teams Up to Feed Illinois

This is a slightly different blog post today. It’s not legal news or trial tips. It’s a call to action.

Warner & Zimmerle has teamed up with the Illinois State Bar Association to fight hunger in our state through a fundraiser called Lawyers Feeding Illinois. 

An estimated 1.9 million (!!) people are going hungry in the state of Illinois. A $1 donation will provide 5 meals.

The statewide goal is 1 million meals – and we’re trying to do our part.

Click here to donate – even $1 helps!

(Warner & Zimmerle is a law firm in Rock Island, Illinois, helping injured people in Iowa and Illinois. They can be reached at 309-794-1660).

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New Illinois Medical Malpractice Law

Governor Quinn recently signed Public Act 97-1145 into law, changing one big thing and clarifying another big issue in Illinois medical malpractice cases.

First, attorneys fees on medical malpractice cases are now capped at 33 1/3% of the total recovery. There had previously been lower caps as case values increased. This is important for all attorneys to pay attention to for new or future cases. I think it’s a good thing, as med mal cases tend to be the toughest, longest, and most expensive cases personal injury lawyers handle.

The act finally codifies the current version of the 2-622 expert certification requirement:

(735 ILCS 5/2-622)  (from Ch. 110, par. 2-622)
    Sec. 2-622. Healing art malpractice.
    (a) In any action, whether in tort, contract or otherwise,
in which the plaintiff seeks damages for injuries or death by
reason of medical, hospital, or other healing art malpractice,
the plaintiff's attorney or the plaintiff, if the plaintiff is
proceeding pro se, shall file an affidavit, attached to the
original and all copies of the complaint, declaring one of the
        1. That the affiant has consulted and reviewed the
    facts of the case with a health professional who the
    affiant reasonably believes: (i) is knowledgeable in the
    relevant issues involved in the particular action; (ii)
    practices or has practiced within the last 6 years or
    teaches or has taught within the last 6 years in the same
    area of health care or medicine that is at issue in the
    particular action; and (iii) is qualified by experience or
    demonstrated competence in the subject of the case; that
    the reviewing health professional has determined in a
    written report, after a review of the medical record and
    other relevant material involved in the particular action
    that there is a reasonable and meritorious cause for the
    filing of such action; and that the affiant has concluded
    on the basis of the reviewing health professional's review
    and consultation that there is a reasonable and meritorious
    cause for filing of such action. If the affidavit is filed
    as to a defendant who is a physician licensed to treat
    human ailments without the use of drugs or medicines and
    without operative surgery, a dentist, a podiatrist, a
    psychologist, or a naprapath, the written report must be
    from a health professional licensed in the same profession,
    with the same class of license, as the defendant. For
    affidavits filed as to all other defendants, the written
    report must be from a physician licensed to practice
    medicine in all its branches. In either event, the
    affidavit must identify the profession of the reviewing
    health professional. A copy of the written report, clearly
    identifying the plaintiff and the reasons for the reviewing
    health professional's determination that a reasonable and
    meritorious cause for the filing of the action exists, must
    be attached to the affidavit, but information which would
    identify the reviewing health professional may be deleted
    from the copy so attached.

(Howard Zimmerle is a medical malpractice lawyer in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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