Posted on January 7, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

EDITORS NOTE: I have one of the great paralegals in the country, as my primary staff person and intake person: Jayne. Jayne knows more about brain injury than most of the neurologists I depose, and could find an easier, less time consuming job anytime she wanted, did she not have such a commitment to brain injury survivors. Ask any client of mine (or even any defense attorney) and they will tell you how indispensable Jayne has been to their case. She is a caring, smart, and organized individual, who will work every possible minute to preserve your right to justice.

I asked Jayne to write a blog on how to help people know what to say to a lawyer when they call with a personal injury case. Here is what she said:

Jayne on What to Say When You Call:

As a paralegal to a busy trial lawyer, I speak to many people on the phone about accidents or medical situations. All of the people that I talk to are potential clients looking for a lawyer to represent them.

Here are what I consider to be the 10 best ways to present your case to a law firm:

1. Ask for the person who handles new case intake. Don’t insist that you speak immediately to a lawyer. The best lawyers have competent personnel working for them who are trained* to handle what is commonly referred to a case intake. If you only want to speak to “the lawyer” ….you might just end up not speaking with anyone.

2. Ask if this is a good time for the person to listen to you. My job involves doing many different tasks during the day. Sometimes just being able to speak to you at a time when I am available to listen without a distraction can make a difference in the presentation of your case.

3. Speak clearly. This seems so basic, yet rarely happens. People are so anxious to tell their “story” that they begin speaking rapidly and using incomplete sentences. Speak slowly and clearly. I am usually typing notes to myself as I listen, so speaking clearly will help both of us.

4. Start at the beginning of your story. Please don’t skip all over the place when you are trying to explain. Think about what you want to say prior to calling a law firm. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “I just don’t know where to start or what to tell you.” Well… you called me for my assistance, so please give some thought to what you wish to say before you dial.

5. Tell me just the facts. Yes, at some point I will need to know every little nuance and detail of what happened, but not during the initial phone call. Give me the basic facts in chronological order. If I do try to cut you short, understand that it is my job to present your potential case to the attorney in a concise fashion.

6. Don’t whine. Tell me your story without sounding like a complainer. We understand what has happened to you has been terrible. . I listen to many sad stories. I feel empathy for each person who calls our office or I would not be doing what I do. Unfortunately, when you go on and on, it is difficult for me or anyone else to listen for any length of time.

7. Explain why your case has merit. You are looking for an attorney because you believe you need an attorney to represent you in your plea for justice. Explain your perspective as to the reasons why you feel you need to commence a lawsuit against a certain party.

8. Don’t complain endlessly about your past attorney. Many of the calls I handle involve someone who is unhappy with their past attorney. I am listening carefully as you describe your difficulties with your prior attorney. I am asking myself if the problem sounds like it was the attorney or if it was you. No law firm wants to take on a problem client. Try to respectfully point out the differences between your past attorney and yourself.

9. Don’t leave important facts until the end. Nothing is more frustrating than after I have spent a great deal of time listening and taking notes to hear someone say “and my case has already been settled.” If your case is settled or your trial begins tomorrow, those are important facts that we need to know right up front. This rule contradicts what I said above, about telling everything in chronological order.

10. Be proactive, persistant, and polite. I am a busy person trying to do the best job that I can getting you the representation you deserve. If you do not hear from our office within a few days of your initial call, please call again and ask if we have had a chance to review your situation. (See Footnote from lawyer below).

Your proper presentation of your case can make a major difference in obtaining the best possible representation.

Jayne Zabrowski

Editor’s Footnote: When Jayne is excusing us for not calling back timely enough, she is covering for me. Jayne never doesn’t get around to you. The source of that problem would be me, and I do apologize. I sometimes have a million things going and a crisis in a current case that I am consumed with. If Jayne thinks you have a case with merit, I always listen. It is just that sometimes I don’t turn on the ears for days. Remind Jayne if you haven’t heard, and she will make me listen the next time.

The problem with these rules is that we by definition represent those who have difficulty doing what these rules ask for. We will listen regardless. Jayne’s point is that when you are talking to some other law firm, that does not grasp that brain damaged clients have difficulty with executive functioning, these problems in organizing your story may be fatal to getting representation. If you have difficulty doing these things, it can increase your chance of getting representation get someone to help you do them. Even consider having someone who knows you and how you were changed by your injury, make the call for you.

A couple of additional points:

Where Did you Get Hurt. First thing I want to hear is where the injury occurred. How much I can help you myself, or who I can associate to help you, is very dependant on where the injury occurred.

Who Did Something Wrong. There is no personal injury case without wrongful conduct. Tell us why you think your injury was some else’s fault.

Thank you for your patience with us. We will do our best, to help you.

Within the next week, we will have a list of suggestions from a client as to what the lawyer could do better.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447