What a personal injury attorney does

Here is a list of the principal tasks performed by a personal injury in preparing a case for trial.

Pre-suit legal matters

  • Keep track of when the statute of limitations expires to make sure you don’t miss the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
  • Obtain exact legal name and address for adverse parties.
  • Give all government, medical, other statutory required notices that are required before suit is filed.
  • Determine the correct jurisdiction and venue (county) in which to file your case.

Initial steps

  • Conduct an initial interview with the client.
  • Discuss whether the attorney will handle the client’s insurance claims for reimbursement of damages.
  • Send an initial letter to the client with the terms of engagement.
  • Tell the client what items of potential evidence must be preserved during the case.
  • Get copies of any statements given by the client.
  • Get official reports of the occurrence or inspections (e.g., police, state agency).
  • Get potentially relevant documents and evidence in the client’s possession.
  • Inspect the scene and the product/physical items involved.
  • Get any reports of prior hearings or official proceedings regarding the incident.
  • Get insurance coverage information from the client and the adverse party.
  • Prepare the summons and complaint and arrange to have them served on the defendants.

Client, expert, witness

  • Discuss with the client possible additional damages, e.g., consortium claims.
  • Give the client lists of items to accomplish or gather.
  • Instruct the client to seek medical care and mitigate damages.
  • Retain and consult experts, as appropriate, on liability, medical treatment, damages, and any other matters for which an expert opinion may be necessary.
  • Prepare a witness summary for each witness. (Ours, Theirs, Third Party’s)
  • Determine which witnesses need to be interviewed and interview them.

Photographs; documents; physical exhibits

  • Get photos of the vehicles or products involved; the scene; the client’s injuries or damages.
  • Secure all physical evidence for exhibits.
  • Collect all relevant documents, photos, and data in client’s possession.
  • In a vehicle case, get data from car’s electronic data recorder, if one exists.
  • ASAP, without damaging metadata, get the client’s basic relevant e-mails and basic electronic documents.
  • Send an evidence preservation letter to the adversary.
  • Meet and confer with the adversary attorney to exchange information and to agree on preservation of electronically stored data and exchanges.
  • Sign a non-waiver of privilege agreement on unintentional production of privileged materials.
  • When the opponent’s ESI (electronically stored evidence) preservation demand arrives, respond to it in writing.
  • Phone the client, then send, by next day delivery, a letter to the client, specifically listing items that the opponent has requested be preserved.
  • Five days after phoning the client, personally check with the client to monitor compliance.
  • Collect, organize, and review the client’s ESI for discovery and trial.
  • Produce ESI requested by adversary.
  • Collect, review, and organize the ESI provided by the opponent.
  • Determine which of adversary’s ESI will be objected to and prepare brief to hand to court.


  • Prepare a list of the client’s medical expenses.
  • Obtain the client’s medical records.
  • Obtain the client’s hospital records.
  • Secure all bills.
  • List all special damages.
  • Obtain all property damage documentation.
  • Obtain loss of time and income from the client, the client’s employer, or accountant.
  • Obtain the client’s pertinent income tax returns.
  • Obtain all loss of income documentation.
  • Obtain all loss of business and loss of profits documentation.
  • Determine if subrogation interests or liens exist.
  • Send the opposing party request for admissions of our client’s damages.
  • Determine what is needed to prove damages at trial.
  • Get those documents.
  • Subpoena those witnesses for trial.

Settlement and mediation

  • Set a target date for submitting initial demand/offer to the other side.
  • Decide whether to set up mediation.
  • Select mediator and make arrangements.

Witness designation dates; damages records; exhibits

  • Decide whom to call as lay witnesses.
  • Designate expert witnesses and give their reports to other side.
  • Check with trial court about the permissible methods for showing exhibits and evidence to the jury.
  • Prepare exhibits for trial.
  • Complete video depositions that will be presented at trial of doctors and other witnesses who will not testify in person.
  • Prepare and file a list of exhibits with the court.

Written discovery

  • Conduct initial exchange of information prior to formal discovery
  • Draft and serve requests for production of documents and/or inspection of things on all adverse parties.
  • Draft and serve interrogatories on all adverse parties.
  • Draft and serve requests for admissions on all adverse parties.
  • Conduct on site inspections, as necessary of the scene; things; and documents.
  • Obtain and review reports from adverse experts.
  • Disclose to opposing attorney our expert’s names and their opinions:
  • Respond to written discovery (interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission) from adverse parties.
  • Review discovery responses from adverse parties.


  • Decide which of opposing party’s witnesses to depose.
  • Schedule depositions.
  • Prepare for and take depositions.
  • Prepare client, experts, and other plaintiff’s witnesses for their depositions.
  • Attend and defend depositions.
  • Summarize all depositions and edit them for trial.


  • Research legal issues including admissibility of evidence at trial.
  • Prepare and serve on opposing party all appropriate motions including:
    • Motion for partial or full summary judgment.
    • Motion for exclusion of expert testimony of adverse expert witness.
    • Motions in limine for exclusion of evidence.

Final preparations for trial

  • Prepare certificate of readiness, note of issue, or other court requirements to get a trial date set by court.
  • Amend pleadings as if necessary.
  • Alert all witness (doctors, experts, client, others) of when to be at trial:
  • Prepare questions for each witness.
  • Send all witnesses outlines, hints on testifying, or other pretrial materials.
  • Make arrangements for witnesses’ appearances.
  • Prepare subpoenas for witnesses where needed and arrange to serve them.
  • Meet with client and witnesses to prepare them for trial.
  • Prepare jury instructions and send to judge and adverse counsel.
  • Prepare all materials required by judge’s pretrial orders.
  • Become familiar with electronic presentation devices to be used in the courtroom (e.g., projector, input connections for our materials).
  • Obtain and review jury list.
  • Prepare questions for jury selection.
  • Prepare opening statement.
  • Prepare draft of closing argument.