Personal Injury as Tragedy


Having learned from Simon Rifkind all trials are plays, I sought a theatrical formula appealing to audiences over time that mirrors a personal injury case. The type of play that fits a personal injury case is tragedy. Research reveals Aristotle in Poetics sets forth what has become the classic principles of tragedy.

Plato and Aristotle argued on weather the study of tragedy was worth a philosopher’s time. Plato maintained all theatre including tragedy is simply entertainment that does not rise to the level of interest to a philosopher. Aristotle disagreed. Aristotle argued tragedy at the highest level involves the audience. The audience sees the tragic plot in cause and effect sequences that mirror universal truth. In high level tragedy two things happen to members of the audience. First, they pity the tragic hero. Second, they fear the tragic result can happen to them. Aristotle maintains when this occurs the audience experiences a cathartic event- a purification or spiritual renewal.

Applied to a personal injury case, when tried at the highest level, the jury identifies with plaintiff and pities the tragic result dealt plaintiff. The jury also fears the result could happen to them. The catharsis occurs in the verdict as it rights the wrong in the only way this can be done.

It is important to note tragedy is not staged or made up. As taught by Aristotle tragedy represents reality. Tragedy happens in life. People recognize tragedy and if possible want to remedy tragedy. This is why it makes sense for a personal injury lawyer to study the dynamics of  tragedy. When these dynamics are present in a case it is worthy of the production of a trial.

In the next post we start to  analyze the elements of tragedy as taught by Aristotle and begin to apply them to a personal injury case that is worthy of the production of a trial.

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