What a personal injury attorney does
Here is a list of the principal tasks performed by a personal injury in preparing a case for trial.
Pre-suit legal matters
- Keep track of when the statute of limitations expires to make sure you don’t miss the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
- Obtain exact legal name and address for adverse parties.
- Give all government, medical, other statutory required notices that are required before suit is filed.
- Determine the correct jurisdiction and venue (county) in which to file your case.
- Conduct an initial interview with the client.
- Discuss whether the attorney will handle the client’s insurance claims for reimbursement of damages.
- Send an initial letter to the client with the terms of engagement.
- Tell the client what items of potential evidence must be preserved during the case.
- Get copies of any statements given by the client.
- Get official reports of the occurrence or inspections (e.g., police, state agency).
- Get potentially relevant documents and evidence in the client’s possession.
- Inspect the scene and the product/physical items involved.
- Get any reports of prior hearings or official proceedings regarding the incident.
- Get insurance coverage information from the client and the adverse party.
- Prepare the summons and complaint and arrange to have them served on the defendants.
Client, expert, witness
- Discuss with the client possible additional damages, e.g., consortium claims.
- Give the client lists of items to accomplish or gather.
- Instruct the client to seek medical care and mitigate damages.
- Retain and consult experts, as appropriate, on liability, medical treatment, damages, and any other matters for which an expert opinion may be necessary.
- Prepare a witness summary for each witness. (Ours, Theirs, Third Party’s)
- Determine which witnesses need to be interviewed and interview them.
Photographs; documents; physical exhibits
- Get photos of the vehicles or products involved; the scene; the client’s injuries or damages.
- Secure all physical evidence for exhibits.
- Collect all relevant documents, photos, and data in client’s possession.
- In a vehicle case, get data from car’s electronic data recorder, if one exists.
- ASAP, without damaging metadata, get the client’s basic relevant e-mails and basic electronic documents.
- Send an evidence preservation letter to the adversary.
- Meet and confer with the adversary attorney to exchange information and to agree on preservation of electronically stored data and exchanges.
- Sign a non-waiver of privilege agreement on unintentional production of privileged materials.
- When the opponent’s ESI (electronically stored evidence) preservation demand arrives, respond to it in writing.
- Phone the client, then send, by next day delivery, a letter to the client, specifically listing items that the opponent has requested be preserved.
- Five days after phoning the client, personally check with the client to monitor compliance.
- Collect, organize, and review the client’s ESI for discovery and trial.
- Produce ESI requested by adversary.
- Collect, review, and organize the ESI provided by the opponent.
- Determine which of adversary’s ESI will be objected to and prepare brief to hand to court.
- Prepare a list of the client’s medical expenses.
- Obtain the client’s medical records.
- Obtain the client’s hospital records.
- Secure all bills.
- List all special damages.
- Obtain all property damage documentation.
- Obtain loss of time and income from the client, the client’s employer, or accountant.
- Obtain the client’s pertinent income tax returns.
- Obtain all loss of income documentation.
- Obtain all loss of business and loss of profits documentation.
- Determine if subrogation interests or liens exist.
- Send the opposing party request for admissions of our client’s damages.
- Determine what is needed to prove damages at trial.
- Get those documents.
- Subpoena those witnesses for trial.
Settlement and mediation
- Set a target date for submitting initial demand/offer to the other side.
- Decide whether to set up mediation.
- Select mediator and make arrangements.
Witness designation dates; damages records; exhibits
- Decide whom to call as lay witnesses.
- Designate expert witnesses and give their reports to other side.
- Check with trial court about the permissible methods for showing exhibits and evidence to the jury.
- Prepare exhibits for trial.
- Complete video depositions that will be presented at trial of doctors and other witnesses who will not testify in person.
- Prepare and file a list of exhibits with the court.
- Conduct initial exchange of information prior to formal discovery
- Draft and serve requests for production of documents and/or inspection of things on all adverse parties.
- Draft and serve interrogatories on all adverse parties.
- Draft and serve requests for admissions on all adverse parties.
- Conduct on site inspections, as necessary of the scene; things; and documents.
- Obtain and review reports from adverse experts.
- Disclose to opposing attorney our expert’s names and their opinions:
- Respond to written discovery (interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission) from adverse parties.
- Review discovery responses from adverse parties.
- Decide which of opposing party’s witnesses to depose.
- Schedule depositions.
- Prepare for and take depositions.
- Prepare client, experts, and other plaintiff’s witnesses for their depositions.
- Attend and defend depositions.
- Summarize all depositions and edit them for trial.
- Research legal issues including admissibility of evidence at trial.
- Prepare and serve on opposing party all appropriate motions including:
- Motion for partial or full summary judgment.
- Motion for exclusion of expert testimony of adverse expert witness.
- Motions in limine for exclusion of evidence.
Final preparations for trial
- Prepare certificate of readiness, note of issue, or other court requirements to get a trial date set by court.
- Amend pleadings as if necessary.
- Alert all witness (doctors, experts, client, others) of when to be at trial:
- Prepare questions for each witness.
- Send all witnesses outlines, hints on testifying, or other pretrial materials.
- Make arrangements for witnesses’ appearances.
- Prepare subpoenas for witnesses where needed and arrange to serve them.
- Meet with client and witnesses to prepare them for trial.
- Prepare jury instructions and send to judge and adverse counsel.
- Prepare all materials required by judge’s pretrial orders.
- Become familiar with electronic presentation devices to be used in the courtroom (e.g., projector, input connections for our materials).
- Obtain and review jury list.
- Prepare questions for jury selection.
- Prepare opening statement.
- Prepare draft of closing argument.