Although there are various methods of approaching and ascertaining facts concerning the problem of the client and determine the possible legal steps to take, there is a three steps agreed-on approach. The procedure is divided into three phases (a) Preliminary factual identification, (2) Chronological factual overview and (3) Factual development and verification. However, a proceeding may need more interviews to complete the three steps.
Preliminary Factual Identification Stage
This step includes the first interview which is usually emotional as the client feeling to have been wronged and is seeking justice. At this stage, the paralegal should be able to develop a rapport and motivate the client to talk freely. The paralegal or the lawyer should understand and empathize with the client, use active listening technique and back the clients feeling. Questions should be aimed at making the foundation of the case
Chronological Factual Overview Stage
At this phase, the paralegal gets an overview and is restricted against detailed probing. The questioning forms the interrogatory procedure as the client is kept fixated along a sequential track to minimize the risks of interfering with the normal proceeding of association. At this stage, the client can deliver critical hints that may get lost if the paralegal tried to discover all essential facts by using narrowly focused questions. At this stage, facts are development and verified to reveal what facts to be verified or supported by investigating and collecting evidence. To achieve success in this stage, the paralegal should endeavor to determine which facts should be ascertained and identify the possibly applicable facts which can be explored further. The difference between possibly identified facts and the facts that need further study is made to determine major faults that may occur in a legal interview. The paralegals can then distinguish weaker facts from solid facts. After the paralegal has recognized the facts that can be applied to the case, they are investigated, and inquiries concluded (Kane & Dvoskin, 2011).
Factual Development and Verification Stage
As the third stage, the paralegal determines what facts may be possibly applied by using very specific guideline. At the previous stage of concluding the overview, the paralegal consciously asks the question of the available facts and what the attorneys desires and concerns. Other facts, even if they are weak or strong appear at this stage for the attorney to appropriately represent the client. Although some information and facts are observable, mental deduction and determination must be applied at this stage to develop the maximum number of possibilities. Knowledge concerning attorneys substantive theories need support to execute the task. At this phase, the client is asked to offer the general description of what happened and what caused the problems to identify the facts defining the case. The paralegal encourages the client to describe the preceding matters in every comfortable way. The paralegal should avoid imposing any specific order on the clients presentation as the client should flow freely when giving the narrative. This is done by asking for a common account and desist from any interrupted or detailed questioning (Millemann, Gilfrich, & Granat, 1996). The client should be encouraged to provide a step-by-step occurrence of the incident which describes the clients problem. The client should start from the when the problem started up to the present. By giving the story, the client the paralegal understands what the client wants.
Five questions asked by a paralegal prior to beginning the interview with the client
The question instills confidence on the client as the outset to getting into details. The questions do not have to be answered in details but should give an idea to the underlying value of the case and overview of the potential client. They include:
1. When did the incident happen? The question is used to know the time frame of the incident so that the paralegal can prepare for the case-control and avoid any compromises.
2. How did the event happen? The question is used to determine the liability question. It identifies how the injury came to be if the case has any legal basis and if the client is vague or evasive. It determines if the paralegal can go ahead with interest in the case.
3. Where did the incident occur? The question identifies the appropriate venue if the case proceeds to suit. This may be the clients county or locality for convenience reason.
4. What injuries occurred and what the present physical complaint? Determines the adept of the nature of the injuries and the potential damage caused. At this level, the potential value of the case can be assessed.
5. Were there any witnesses and what physician or medical facility treated the client? The question helps the attorney take control of a significant liability factor. It will also set off doubts on damage issues. The witness and physicians will assist in the determination of the damages and increase credibility in the case (Okrent, 2014).
Interrogatories questions and primary information they collect from opposing counsels client
Please state your full name and your home address. The question tries to get the details of the opposing counsel client.
Describe in detail the location of the accident. It tries to understand the environment the personal injury occurred.
How were the personal injuries of petitioner caused, specifically state the facts upon which you base your contention? The question tries to identify the position of the opposing counsel in the matters relating to the injury and the position he or she takes.
Please state what happened on the date of the accident, include each location which you were present, the time of stay at each such location and a thorough account of whom you were with and what you did at each such place. The question tries to identify if the counsel client provides accurate and credible evidence.
Identify every individual known to you to have personal information of the facts relating to the incidence, and show those who were the eyewitnesses, and state the basis of their knowledge and express their expected evidence. As the case has witnessed, this question tries to understand if the opposing counsel has some witnesses who were not availed during the preparation of the case. The paralegal can then plan on the relationship between the opposing client and the witnesses.
Please identify all persons who carried the investigation cause and conditions of this personal injury. The question tries to identify cracks and failure in the evidence provided in the case.
Please identify all individuals who arrived at the scene of the accident within one (1) of its occurrence. This question tries to determine if there were more witnesses and can be included in the case.
Please identify the object that caused the injury to the plaintiff describing its make, registration number, and its legal/known owner. The question identifies the available materials used as evidence.
If you did not own the object mentioned in the Interrogatory No. 8, please specify its owner, his or her relationship to you, if you had his or her consent to use it and the purpose for which you were using it. The question tries to understand how the object came to be used to cause the injury.
Please identify all individuals you gave verified statements concerning the accident, the exact date and the name of the individual in whose custody each is currently.
Importance of using interrogatories for a personal injury case
Interrogatory questions help the party to discover and identify evidence that is and is not permissible in court. These issues can also assist in identifying potential witnesses and understand precisely how the injuries were obtained from the incident. A standard set of interrogatories can forces the respondent to answer questions which he or she had declined to as they are court approved and mandatory to answer them. The answers would give direction to which the paralegal or the attorney would take the case. Answers to interrogatories are considered to be admissions to be used in a courtroom (Speck, 1951). Experienced paralegals realize the power behind admissions that are used in court. They help and support evidence
Kane, A. W., & Dvoskin, J. A. (2011). Evaluation for personal injury claims. Oxford University Press.
Millemann, M., Gilfrich, N., & Granat, R. (1996). Rethinking the Full-Service Legal Representation Model: A Maryland Experiment. Clearinghouse Rev., 30, 1178.
Okrent, C. (2014). Torts and personal injury law. Nelson Education.
Speck, W. H. (1951). The Use of Discovery in United States District Courts. The Yale Law Journal, 60(7), 1132-1155.
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