Personal injury law firms rely on paralegals to help them prepare for cases.
Although paralegals do not practice law, they are trained in many types of legal assistance that enable them to support the attorneys and client cases.
Paralegals working for personal injury law firms play a vital role in supporting attorneys in the litigation process. Here are just a few of the many ways paralegals help personal injury law offices run smoothly.
Paralegals Assist with Preparation
Personal injury cases are considered tort law cases which means the cases are heard in civil court as opposed to criminal court. The standards for culpability and presentation of evidence are different than in a criminal trial. Paralegals must adapt their methodology of gathering evidence in preparation for the attorney to argue a case.
In a personal injury claim, these four things must be present:
- A duty to act reasonably under the circumstances.
- Someone has breached that duty.
- The party’s breach of duty has caused harm to another party.
- Harm caused to the injured party has a monetary value.
Paralegals working under a personal injury attorney should be familiar with reading and understanding medical records. The paralegal may also be called upon to interview witnesses who have expert medical testimony. A rudimentary background in healthcare will be of great benefit in this role.
Communication with Clients
Paralegals work under attorneys to conduct client interviews, taking witness statements, and acting as a general liaison between the attorney and client. Personal injury paralegals must also have comprehensive writing skills. Some of the things a paralegal may be tasked with are drafting correspondence, memoranda, pleadings, discovery responses, motions, and briefs.
In client and witness interviews, paralegals may also need to ask about the details and true facts of events, and these can sometimes be emotionally charged. Clients who reach out to a personal injury firm have likely been greatly affected by the events of the injurious event. The paralegal must have a high degree of empathy and compassion when listening to details, while obtaining factual recounts and extracting information in an impartial manner.
Organization of Documents
In a personal injury case, there are many documents that must be collected, organized, and filed with the court. For example, to begin a personal injury lawsuit, a complaint must be filed with the court advising the court and the parties involved the allegations of negligence in the claim. Paralegals can assist in drafting these documents for the supervising attorney to review and sign. During the duration of the case, paralegals may also organize medical records and other important information.
Specialized Knowledge and Research
Personal injury paralegals often do research into laws and regulations, landmark decisions, state and local laws, workplace safety laws, or previous decisions as part of the research process.
Some of the things that paralegals in a personal injury law firm might have specialized knowledge in include:
- Automobile safety regulations and accidents
- Medical liability
- Tort law
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Worker’s compensation law
- Wrongful death
Paralegals in personal injury are similar to those in other areas of litigation. They still have to discover facts, gather and analyze evidence, prepare summaries and exhibits, draft demands, pleadings, and compiling discovery.
Discovery in legal proceedings refers to the process by which opponents in a lawsuit get information from each other to establish facts in the case. The federal court system and most state court systems require both sides of litigation to disclose all relevant facts and documents to the other side before trial. There are two main forms of discovery: written discovery (which includes producing documents), and live depositions.
Examples of discovery are written witness questions (known as interrogatories) delivered to the opponent to answer, a request that the opponent produce documents relevant to the case (known as request for production) , request that the opponent admit to allegations (known as requests for admissions), or depositions – which are sworn statement where an attorney asks live questions of a witness, and a court reporter records the transcript for the case.
Discovery is important information that both sides of a lawsuit must go through. Paralegals are heavily involved in collecting, organizing, and managing this information in personal injury cases.
Keeping Scheduling on Track
Paralegals are an integral part of every law office, and they are often responsible for making sure events are scheduled properly throughout the litigation process. One brief example is if a hearing before the court needs to be scheduled. The opposing attorneys as well as their attorney and the court need to be in coordination. Some paralegals will be in charge of preparing documents to file with the court advising all involved parties of the date and time for the hearing.
Interested in a Paralegal Studies Program in California?
If you are a California resident, and you have previously completed an associate or baccalaureate degree or have completed 54 quarter units (36 semester units) in general studies and business from an accredited institution, you are eligible to take our fully Online Paralegal Studies program. This program helps students become a fully certified paralegal in about 48 weeks.
Let’s say you haven’t completed any college credits, and you wish to become a paralegal. Our A.A. Paralegal Studies program would be the right choice. Most of the coursework can be completed remotely, with minimal on-campus required days at our Sacramento campus. For students in the seven-county Sacramento metro area, this program will train you to be a fully certified paralegal in about 25 months.
The Paralegal Studies programs at MTI College are ABA-approved, meaning your training and curriculum will be top-notch. MTI College is also accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
If you have any questions about any of our Paralegal Studies programs, feel free to reach out our team via our Contact page or call (916) 339-1500.