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Soft-tissue Personal Injury from the Perspective of a Legal Assistant

In February, 2004 a Massachusetts Superior Court jury returned a verdict in the matter of Whitecloud v. Crasco, et al. in the amount of $390,000.00. [1]  With interest the total judgment came to $467,958.00.  The incident occurred on September 27, 2000 when Mr. Whitecloud, a middle-aged gentleman, was lawfully driving through an intersection.  The Defendant went through a stop sign (based on a hand gesture from another motorist) and hit Mr. Whitecloud’s vehicle.  Mr. Whitecloud was brought to the hospital and diagnosed with mild back strain.  Shortly thereafter, he moved to Florida.

Thirty years before this accident Mr. Whitecloud had surgery for a tumor in his back and nine months before the accident he had a laminectomy (spine surgery).  The Lawyer representing Mr. Whitehead for the car accident, through his Legal Assistant, asked Mr. Whitehead’s Doctor for a medical Report.  Mr. Whitehead’s Florida neurosurgeon found that he had developed scar tissue from the earlier surgeries and the car accident made it much worse so that he was partially disabled, requiring steroidal injections indefinitely.

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Mr. Whitecloud’s doctor for the accident diagnosed him with a lumbar strain proximately caused by the pre-existing scar tissue.  That means that the lumbar strain and all of the pain from the accident was caused by the other driver who would be found responsible for Mr. Whitehead’s new injuries even though they were as bad as they were because of his pre-existing condition and scar tissue.

The Defendant offered $7,000.00 to settle before trial but the offer was refused and it went to trial.  The jury, in addition to awarding $390,000.00 (plus interest) found Mr. Whitehead to have zero percent contributory negligence for the accident or his injuries.

This outstanding result was a team effort and the lawyers’ legal assistant who helped coordinate with the Doctors and other medical providers, was an important part of the success.

The duties of a legal assistant in a car accident case typically include:

  • Investigating the facts of your case
  • Conducting research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles
  • Organizing and maintaining documents in a paper or electronic filing systems
  • Gathering and arranging evidence and other legal documents for attorney review and case preparation
  • Writing reports to help lawyers prepare your trial
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents, such as settlement demands and discovery
  • Getting affidavits and other formal statements that may be used as evidence in court
  • Helping your lawyer during trials by handling exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing trial transcripts
  • Filing exhibits, briefs, appeals and other legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Calling witnesses, other lawyers, and outside vendors to schedule interviews, meetings and depositions

A team effort—including the injured person, lawyer, and legal assistant is how to get a fair result for a soft tissue injury, like in Whitecloud v. Crasco.  The legal assistant on your case is an important part of putting your case together and getting it ready for trial; getting medical reports, witness statements, police reports and Doctor’s bills. The legal assistant helps get your case ready for settlement or trial from start to finish and will help make sure that he or she is part of your team handling the case efficiently, professionally and passionately.

A team centered approach with you, your lawyer, your doctors, and your legal assistant working together on your case, is a great way to make sure all avenues for a fair settlement or jury decision are the result. Don’t get shortchanged.  Insist on a great legal team to work with you on your injury case.

[1] Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. 2004, April 12. Car Accident Leaves Driver with Back Strain. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.