Something all attorneys, even Virginia personal injury lawyers, do is conduct legal research to find comparable case that have facts similar to those of the case the attorney is working on. Why? Because if an earlier case with similar facts had a positive outcome for the plaintiff, it can really help you and your VA personal injury lawyer, achieve a successful verdict or help with settlement negotiations.
The challenge many lawyers face is actually finding other similar incidents, or OSI. Not all attorneys have access to LexisNexis or Westlaw, so research options can be few and far between for some lawyers.
However, this Virginia injury lawyer has some advice on good research tools that can help your injury attorney compile a strong list of OSI to help resolve their case. Nancy Hunt, an independent researcher and member of the American Association of Justice, compiled the following list of resources your lawyer should be taking a look at while conducting legal research.
State and Federal Courts
Getting access to case summaries and actual court opinions can be surprisingly difficult in both state and federal courts. It can be a multistep process to get imaged documents and specific details about OSI cases. Don’t be surprised if you have to either request the complaint and docket sheet from the court or submit an inquiry to the attorney of record. Below are directory links for state and federal courts:
- The Directory of State Court Clerks and County Courthouses is available at CQ Press (formerly Want Publishing).
- Federal court case procedings and decisions through Pacer and other online legal research sites.
News reports are important means for assessing any and all issues, and the identities of key persons and groups supporting or opposing issues are presented in chronological order in news databanks. Newsbank is an especially useful online resource for searching news reports, and the site offers a variety of subscription options.
Libraries contain a wealth of information and usually charge reasonable rates for the use of research tools. A local library and its community newspapers are ideal for a search that is limited to a well-defined area.
A Freedom of Information, or FOIA, request can be submitted to any federal government agency in Washington, DC, or to one of its offices elsewhere. Some agencies also maintain and provide public access to data and information that can be particularly helpful for plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits.
Some of these agency-specific public archives include the following:
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries— Also known as OSHA Accident Investigation Summaries, these abstracts present the most important findings from selcted analyses of the causes of on-the-job injuries and deaths.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Library — Go here to find all records of product recalls, CPSC publications and statistics on product-related injuries.