Posted in Law, Maritime, Medical Malpractice, Motor Vehicle Incidents, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Products Liability, Workers' Comp, Wrongful Death

Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury claims – or tort lawsuits – arise whenever a plaintiff has suffered injury to their body or mind as opposed to damages relative to their property. Tort law allows a plaintiff to seek legal remedies in civil court for all damages caused because of a particular incident.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims arise when a health care provider, such as a nurse or doctor, fails to provide the appropriate level of care to a patient. In the legal context, this is often referred to as violating the standard of care—what the doctor or nurse is expected to do under the same or similar circumstances. Laws relative to medical malpractice claims vary from state to state.

Wrongful Death

When a person is killed because of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, wrongful death lawsuits are filed. These claims allow plaintiffs to seek remedies and recover damages that are different from those sought for non-fatal injuries. Most wrongful death suits stem from incidents such as medical malpractice, motor vehicle crashes, construction/commercial incidents or the use of a defective product.

Motor Vehicle Incidents

Car crashes are a major public health concern in the United States. On average, about six million car accidents occur every single year in the USA as per the CDC. Half of those individuals involved in car accidents become injured as a result. The insurance companies have teams of attorneys and adjusters on their sides with the sole mission of paying injured plaintiff’s as little as possible. Therefore, it is common for injured plaintiffs to hire a well-informed personal injury attorney to be in their corner.

Workers’ Compensation

Injuries that occur while under the scope of employment are filed as workers’ compensation claims as opposed to bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The laws relative to workers’ comp claims vary from state to state.

Premises Liability

Premises liability cases arise when dangerous conditions on someone’s property results in an injury to someone else. A common example would be a customer slipping in a store that failed to display a “wet floor” sign. Any injury caused by an owner’s carelessness or failure to maintain their property could result in a premises liability lawsuit.

Products Liability

Any individual, business or government entity who sold, designed, marketed or distributed a dangerous or defective product that causes injury could be held liable in a court of law. The four elements a plaintiff must prove are defect, causation, injury and duty. The three theories for which a plaintiff is entitled to sue are negligence – whether the manufacturer has a duty to provide a safe product; strict liability – plaintiff can sue regardless of whether the seller was negligent or not; and breach of warranty – when products have warranties that fail or cause injury.

Maritime

There are two types of maritime workers: those who meet the legal definition of “seamen” and those who work on or near the water. Unlike their non-maritime peers, seamen are not afforded workers’ compensation benefits under state or federal law. Instead, a seamen is able to pursue other remedies, including suing their employer under the Jones Act for the injuries sustained while at work. Additionally, a seaman is allowed to pursue damages against the owner of the vessel on which he was injured, as well as receive maintenance and cure.

The Jones Act, the federal law that allows a seaman to sue his employer, requires maritime employers to provide a seaman with a reasonably safe place to work and use ordinary care to maintain and keep the vessel on which the seaman works in a reasonably safe condition. Unlike most negligence cases, the legal burden an injured seaman must prove to recover under the Jones Act is much lower. That is, an injured seaman, under the Jones Act, must only demonstrate that the employer’s negligence played a part, no matter how small, in the seaman’s injuries.

If you or a loved one suspects you may have a personal injury claim, it is vital that you hire a personal injury attorney who has a history of representing clients in this area. The attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law provide the expertise you need to evaluate your potential case. Our attorneys are ready to get justice for you, so visit http://www.patrickdaniellaw.com.

Posted in Career Advice, Employment Trends, Job Duties, Paralegal, Paralegal Zone

Paralegal Profession: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By Sheena Foley, PHP

The paralegal profession can be highly stressful and fast paced. The entire court system operates on strict deadlines and schedules that are mandatory in order for legal disputes to reach timely resolution. It is therefore no surprise that paralegals must possess the ability to control their time and work loads. This legal “calendar climate” is only one of many triggers that lead to a paralegal’s high level of career related stress.

Being a paralegal is not for everyone and it is certainly not for those who may be sensitive or unable to receive constructive criticism. Depending on the type of law firm a paralegal works for, there are many contributing factors with the potential to create a stressful work environment.

I have compiled a list of some of the most common contributing factors that often deter entry-level legal assistants or add stress upon experienced paralegals. I am not the type of person to only have complaints without solutions; so, I hope my list either encourages an “on-edge” legal assistant to keep pushing or educates an experienced paralegal to seek resolution to their work stress.

1. Job Titles and Job Duties

The paralegal title is used very loosely in the legal industry. While one attorney may hire a paralegal to handle both pre-litigation and litigation work, another may hire a legal secretary to handle the pre-litigation work and a paralegal to handle litigation. Often times, the title or position a paralegal/legal assistant applies for may not match their actual assigned daily job duties.  Given this flexible sphere of legal titles and duties, a paralegal trained in litigation, pre-litigation and appeal may feel a way about receiving a legal secretary title.

Solution:             Be clear with your employer about your job-title requirements and concerns. Be clear about your capabilities and provide clear facts and reasoning behind your request for a change to your duties or title.

2. Resume Fluffers Beware

A common mistake entry-level paralegals make is the “resume fluff.” Some people have a tendency to over-embellish their strengths on their resume to unsuspecting employers. However, in the legal industry, a hiring attorney can spot you coming from a mile away! If you have never drafted discovery or you have never drafted a legal pleading but your resume says you have trial experience, you will be found out sooner than later. This is not a “fake-it-til-you-make-it” industry. Either you have the juice or you don’t. Pretending to have experience will usually lead to a stressful work environment.

Solution:             Highlight the experience you do have without providing falsehoods to a potential employer. If you are a fast learner, quick study and are eager to learn, express this in your cover letter.  Many firms prefer entry-level paralegals that are trainable as opposed to seasoned paralegals who may be set in their ways.

3. Lack of Upward Mobility

Depending on the size of the law firm and structure of legal staff job roles, a paralegal normally has very little upward growth within a law firm. Outside of moving to firm operations, HR, marketing or becoming an attorney, there is very little growth available to most paralegals.

Solution:             The legal universe consists of a plethora of different industries and specialty areas. There is contract work available for paralegals who may want to perform work outside of their everyday, mundane duties. The career possibilities are endless! Never limit yourself.

4. Tenure and Lack of Recognition

A paralegal’s work is never recognized because our only purpose is to assist the attorney. You could draft an excellent petition for damages but it would go unnoticed because we cannot practice law; so the attorney obviously receives the praise. Therefore, if a paralegal’s work is never recognized or commended within a firm, newer staff members may not be aware or have the appropriate respect level for your work or tenure.

Solution:             When it comes to not receiving recognition for your work; that just comes with the paralegal territory. Our recognition and accolades are dependent upon the level of success reached by the attorneys we work for, period. If that is a deal breaker for you, this is not the industry for you. It is your employer’s responsibility to educate all staff of both successes and failures. This is what promotes your recognition within the legal community as well as your tenure within the firm. If you work for a firm that does not operate in this fashion… you have some decisions to make.

Bottom line, the paralegal profession is not for the weak-at-heart. We face extreme deadlines, heavy workloads and varying job duties. We work long hours and oftentimes find ourselves in difficult situations requiring free-style problem solving capabilities. This life is not for everyone.

Posted in Career Advice, Job Duties, Law, Paralegal, Personal Injury, Top Paralegals

Personal Injury Law: Job Duties of Top Paralegals

By: Sheena Foley, PHP

There are many different avenues of specialty available for paralegals to build solid job experience and strong resumes. This article will focus on the job duties of a personal injury paralegal. Depending on the size of the firm and the actual job duties assigned to a paralegal by the handling attorney, the following responsibilities must be mastered by any top paralegal.

Intake and Client Contact

Paralegals must possess the ability to properly screen and interview potential new clients (PNCs). This means knowing what questions to ask during the initial intake and with which tone to ask them in. A useful paralegal will already have a questionnaire on hand to ensure that no information is omitted. It is the paralegal’s job to be as patient and thorough as possible in order to gain all information required for the attorney to review the claim effectively.

Medical Records

Personal injury paralegals understand the importance of medical and billing records being organized, on file and admissible in court. As a paralegal, you may be required to order, summarize, supplement and produce medical records to opposing counsel, insurance adjusters, experts, etc. throughout the case. A useful paralegal understands what to look for within the medical records and how to determine whether they are insufficient.

Ordering and receiving is only a small portion of the overall goal in reviewing a client’s medical records. Familiarity of medical terminology is critical to a paralegal’s ability to identify various injury types and any long-term effects those injuries may cause. This data is critical in the process of effectively moving personal injury cases along. A paralegal must understand medical jargon and have the ability to follow treatment recommendations and orders from treating physicians. I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding medical terminology in order to determine whether surgery or future medical care and expenses are required.

Non-Medical Records

In addition to mastering the art of ordering medical records, a paralegal must also understand what non-medical records may be required to move a case along. Depending on the initial intake, some of these record types may include employment records, academic records, financial records or a declaration page from an insurance adjuster. Useful paralegals also understand FOIA requests and the importance of performing legal, scientific, technical and medical research relative to the claim.

Legal Drafting

The primary purpose of a paralegal is to make their attorney’s job easier and to assist in the process of effectively moving a case along to resolution. Therefore, it is a paralegal’s job to prepare legal motions/pleadings, demands, settlement proposals and discovery for attorney review. Top paralegals can equally draft discovery and discovery responses, inclusive of all relative objections, for their attorney’s final review and modification. Most importantly, top performing paralegals will have these items already drafted, prepared and saved to the file for the attorney’s review based primarily on staying current with the pleadings thereby staying ahead of the game. Always overachieve.

Docket Control and Calendaring

Regardless of the area of specialty, it is understood that a litigation paralegal is responsible for monitoring all deadlines and calendaring all items of importance. This item was included based only on its general importance to any paralegal’s job duties.

Expert Retention and Medical Scheduling

Upon review of a client’s medical records from treating providers, a paralegal may be required to retain and thoroughly vet a medical expert as assigned by the attorney. This will also involve obtaining dates, scheduling treatment and arranging transportation if required. This will be required for any defendant medical examinations (DMEs) as well.

Trial Preparation and Trial

Paralegals organize exhibits, trial documents and evidence into trial binders to prepare for trial. Many paralegals are responsible for setting up any peripherals and exhibits in the courtroom and they assist attorneys in preparing witnesses, submitting bench books, issuing subpoenas and assisting with voir doir. Top paralegals may also be required to assist the attorney during trial by controlling the flow of exhibits, usually with a trial software like Trial Pad. Trial paralegals are the primary intermediaries between the clients, witnesses, attorneys and court staff throughout trial.

Regardless of your current job duties or responsibilities at this stage in your career, there should never come a time when you stop learning and striving to be a better paralegal. Always utilize your peers and share information that will lead to the growth of your team. I have worked with some amazing paralegals during my career and from them all; I have gained something substantial, inspiring, thought provoking or informative at the very least. Being trainable, approachable, flexible and self-starting are all traits which will lead to a successful paralegal career.