A Day-In-The-Life of a Personal Injury Paralegal
Hello! I’m Joe Cannizzo, and I’m a paralegal here at Drinkwater & Goldstein, LLP. As you hopefully know by now from our previous blog posts and video posts on our YouTube channel, we’re a personal injury practice, located in here in Atco, NJ.
Now that it's 2018 - a new year - I wanted to discuss a new topic that we haven't talked about yet on our personal injury blog. Thus far we've covered a lot of what New Jersey law has to say regarding specific types of personal injury matters - car accidents, slip & falls, dog bites, for example - but one of the things we haven't discuss yet on our blog is how a typical personal injury case is handled on a day-to-day basis.
While most people are familiar with what attorneys do on a daily basis - or at least have some idea of what they do - based probably on how they've seen attorneys depicted on television and in movies; most people probably are not as familiar with what the job of a paralegal entails, and more times than not, the typical personal injury client will have a far greater deal of contact with the paralegal assigned to their case than the actually attorney representing them in it.
So to begin to understand what it is that a personal injury paralegal does, it is important to know that most of it involves dealing with the client directly.
For example, whenever we get a phone call in the office with a potential new client, one of our other paralegals or myself will talk with the person and do what we call an intake. These intakes involve us asking the person what happened and what kind of accident they were involved in. Next we discuss what injuries they suffered as a result of the accident, if they’ve started their medical treatment yet, and if so, what treatment they've undergone so far. Then we discuss insurance coverage and in the case of a motor vehicle accident, we typically request that the caller provide us with a copy of the declaration sheet from their auto insurance policy and a copy of the police report from the accident.
Once we gather all this information and have a firm understanding of the facts, we write up a summary of the call on our intake form and forward it to our attorneys to review. If they agree that the person has a legitimate claim and they’re comfortable taking them on as clients, I’ll call them to schedule their first in-office meeting.
Usually this first in-office meeting is between the potential client and one of our partner attorneys, but a paralegal like myself is almost always present because that paralegal will be assigned as the point-person for those new clients. All of our clients have a designed paralegal who aides the attorneys in gathering all of the materials needed to build their case.
Consequently, one of the largest components of my job is gathering records, specifically medical records. I am constantly touching base with each my clients to get updates on their medical treatment and then I write to those doctors’ offices to obtain copies of their medical records. I build a comprehensive medical file for each client and with every new appointment, I request a copy of that record to add to the file.
Another part of what I do regularly as a paralegal is act as the liaison between our client and the defendant’s insurance company. Generally, once a plaintiff in a personal injury matter retains the services of an attorney at a personal injury firm such as ours, all communication from the defendant’s insurance company should be directed to the firm and not our client directly. So occasionally an insurance adjuster will call me to ask for a medical update on one of my clients and I’ll politely relay what treatment the person has had to the adjuster. Often, a defendant's insurance adjuster will try to put words in my mouth, or attempt to misrepresent the severity of our client's injuries - the "less injured" our client seems to the insurance adjuster, the better it is for the defendant's case, and usually this translates to a smaller settlement offer. As a result, it is my job to ensure these adjusters have a very firm understanding of the genuine nature of any one of my clients' injuries, along with the proper medical documentation to support it.
The primary way this is accomplished is through another large part of what a personal injury paralegal's job requires: compiling the Demand Package.
Once one of my client’s has finished their medical treatment, I will send a Demand Package to the defendant's insurance adjuster. This package, which includes our client's full medical record (all of the records I have been compiling over the course of their treatment), is essentially the tool that indicates to the insurance adjuster that our client has finished treating for their injuries, and that it’s now time for the insurance company to consider negotiating as to a possible settlement.
While it’s the attorney and not me the paralegal that does the actual negotiating with the adjuster, every time one of my cases settles, I like to feel as though I was responsible for that in some small way and I feel proud knowing that I helped my client through their medical treatment, hopefully to being back on their feet again and to a place in their life that is as close as possible to the position they were in prior to their injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, be it in a car accident, a slip and fall event, or because of someone else’s negligence, give us a call here at Drinkwater & Goldstein, LLP. Our telephone number is (856) 753-5131, and we’re located at 277 White Horse Pike, Suite 200, in Atco, New Jersey.
Again, I’m Joe Cannizzo, one of the paralegals here at Drinkwater & Goldstein, LLP. Thank you for taking the time to visit our Personal Injury Blog, and I look forward to possibly being your paralegal should the need arise!