My name is Attorney Rob Collins and I’m going to pull back the curtain a little bit on non-legal research by a lawyer in Delaware.
One important part of being a personal injury lawyer is knowing how to research, and I don’t just mean legal research. That is certainly important, but finding out the facts can be even more important. With the internet, factual research has become much easier. I’m going to tell you some of the websites I have bookmarked because I use them so often, and why I use them so often.
When I have a car accident case, I need to know exactly how the accident happened. In practically every initial consultation (yes, I personally meet with potential clients) I print out a Google Earth map of the scene of the accident so the client can show me exactly how the accident happened. This is also very useful for outdoor slip/trip and falls and dog bites. Many times I have cases where the potential client just doesn’t remember all of the facts, whether that be from loss of consciousness or being trapped in the vehicle or just being in shock.
Sometimes the accident happened when the at-fault driver was running from the police or doing something noteworthy. I can then often find information about the accident in local newspapers or the Delaware State Police Newsroom while waiting to receive the accident report.
Sometimes I need to find out who owns a property. The most common time I need to find this out is when looking for insurance coverage for a dog attack. If the dog’s owner also owns the property rather than rents, then chances are that there is a mortgage on the property. If there is a mortgage, then the mortgage almost certainly requires the homeowner to carry liability insurance coverage. Although the websites vary greatly in ease of use, ownership information can still usually be found.
Sometimes I suspect the at-fault driver has some serious skeletons in his/her closet that might be useful. You would be amazed at some of the things I have found by simply searching public Facebook profiles. However, I might also look for other interesting information. For example:
- Past legal suits involving the person
- If the at-fault person has any warrants out
- If he or she is currently in jail
I often look into the person’s criminal history, but that information is not easily available to the public. If you understand the archaic computer platform used, you can go to the nearest county courthouse and access the public terminals in the Prothonotary’s Office.
Then there are websites that I use for litigation or just to keep up with the law. For instance:
- Court opinions, to keep up on changes in the law
- The official addresses for each insurance company licensed in Delaware
- A registry of all adjusters licensed in Delaware; I check this one whenever an adjuster says something that doesn’t make sense under Delaware law
- The Secretary of State’s website for the actual name of business entities and their registered agent for service of the legal process
- The registry of trade names and fictitious names, for when businesses operate under a different name than how they are incorporated
- The Delaware Code, without annotations, for when I quickly need statutory language, but not case law
- Delaware Trial Handbook, although I don’t know how often it is updated
- Pattern jury instructions
I also have other bookmarks for things like various town or county codes and state departments, but the above sites are the bookmarked public sites that I use most often. I would love to hear from you about any websites you think I should add to my list.
I’m Attorney Robert C. Collins II, Esq. Please send me an email below if you have questions or comments.