Paralegals are positioned to play an increasingly important role in assisting Miami FL personal injury trial lawyers as litigation becomes more complex, the rules become stricter, files become larger, and costs continue to skyrocket. This blog will focus on the key roles of a paralegal within a plaintiff’s personal injury firm. The caveat is that every lawyer and law firm will utilize the paralegal in a slightly different way depending on the working style of the attorney and the size of the law firm; and for the paralegal in an insurance defense firm, the roles might be (and likely are) very different.
1. Client Intake: If your firm is successfully marketed, the phone will ring, the emails will come in, and a steady stream of potential clients will ask “Do I have a case?” No lawyer in these circumstances has the time to field all these calls- screen them and decide if the matter merits further inquiry. A well trained paralegal can respond to these contacts with potential personal injury clients and draw out the essentials to determine if this is a matter that meets the firm’s intake criteria. This information can then be efficiently and succinctly passed on the attorney to determine whether the matter should be immediately declined, or the potential client brought in for a more detailed interview and a representation agreement entered into.
2. Medical Record Review: Assuming that new client is now on board and the firm is going forward with the inquiry, a well-trained paralegal should know immediately what medical records should be ordered and once they are received should have a level of medical knowledge to be able to recognize if the records are complete, and summarize in non-technical terms what the records say with an eye toward the important issues of extent of the damage, pre-existing medical conditions and injuries, the causation of the personal injury, and the residual permanency of the injury.
3. Discovery Coordination: Try as the Courts may to streamline discovery, the expansion of the technology in the form of word processing, automated database analysis, electronic medical record creation and the audit trails that accompany it, digital transfer of information have produced a mountain of information. The paralegal must be able to keep up with the deadlines, manage the data so that it is searchable and logically saved, and confirm whether what you are asking for has actually been provided. Without effective coordination of the mass of information assembled it is next to useless.
4. Trial Preparation: The experienced personal injury paralegal plays a critical role in ensuring that deadlines in a trial order or case management order are met, discovery is completed, witness lists created, exhibit lists created, and witness availability determined. As well, in coordination with the attorney the paralegal should be capable of developing PowerPoint presentations to assist the attorney at trial, have the exhibits in a usable format for trial, and facilitate any work with a trial technology company that may be needed for the actual courtroom presentation.
5. Trial Assistant: If you work for a firm that does not have the luxury of a second seat attorney at trial (and even if you do), the personal injury paralegal is essential in assisting the personal injury trial attorney in the first chair, in note taking, watching the reaction of the jury, coordinating the scheduling of witnesses, making sure all the needs to be put into evidence is in a usable and “clean” form, and essentially doing everything needed to allow the attorney to focus on the presentation of the trial from arguments to examination.
Thanks to our friend and blog author, Andrew Needle of Needle & Ellenberg, P.A., for his insight into the increasing importance of paralegal support in personal injury litigation.