More About Organizing Your Case.
Every case shares something in common. Each requires the gathering and organizing of information. The first source of that information is the client. My first attempt at writing on this subject, “Something Constructive, How to Organize the Facts in Your Case, may be found at http://tinyurl.com/79y69ge .
Why am I writing about this again? Because it is so hard for the client to grasp, and yet it is so simple.
We start with the three legged stool concept:
1. In a personal injury case, the three legs of the solid stool are:
a. Fault on the part of the other party. This may be through simple negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts.
b. A serious injury. The bullet that whizzes by your ear that you think “Could have killed me!” is of no consequence if you did not get injured or appreciate what it was.
c. A pool of money adequate to pay the claim. I once turned down a clear fault claim for the wrongful death of a child in Fla. The drunk driver had no insurance, and neither parent had underinsurance. In WV that claim has two other potential options (although NOTHING can recompense for the loss of a child). A claim can be filed under WV’s Crime Victim’s Act, and the law permits an action against the bar or tavern if it can be proved it served the person to the point of intoxication.
2. The “three legged stool” in organizing our case, as I have transmuted it from the key concepts in the software application CaseMap, is:
a. A complete (with details, but very concise) “object list” of the people, documents, digital recordings, places, and events that make up the case. There is only one “object list”, but it can be sorted by type of object. It can be very long, but individual components must be concise;
b. The lists of concerns, wants, or grievances of the client. There is not limit to the number of lists, but each must have a meaningful title such as “List of My Symptoms”, “Reasons the Other Guys is at Fault”, “What I want in my divorce”, “Reasons My Spouse is Not a Good Parent”. These lists go with us to mediation, and they are in my opening statement to the court or jury and my closing arguments. They must be concise because it is so difficult for a Court to understand and sort through the evidence as it is presented; and
c. The Timeline or Chronology, with dates (exact or approximate) along the left side of the page, and the events (which may include elements from a. and b. above, listed concisely, in no more than a line.
Sometimes it is my most intelligent and cooperative clients who complain, “But there is so much more!” They must accept that I have listened to their story and will be reminded of those details by the core facts that must be conveyed. And they have to realize, as The Rolling Stones knew, “You Don’t Always Get What You Want, but if you try real hard, you get what you need”.
The judges have only so much time, energy, and intellect. If they are spoonfed the essentials of your case, they will remember! It’s the same for juries. Repetition, which is generally considered a bad thing, is good in court.
Mediations are informal “mini-trials”. So these principles apply there too.
Since writing my first article, I have been pounding these concepts into my clients’ heads. The client must “try real hard”. They guy who “works away” and comes back two hours later expecting my paralegal to fill out his forms for him is killing his case and running up fees. Do not expect to take up two hours of her time, unnecessarily, and not have it show up on your bill. I charge 50% of my rate for non-secretarial paralegal time; not often, but I have to if you are wasting our resources.
So, as former client and Google Maps reviewer Rick, says, “If Mr. Hunter asks you to make a list, DO IT!”
This post was written by Burton Hunter