An understanding of the discovery process and how it may impact your case may be beneficial if your personal injury case goes to trial. In the following sections, we review what the discovery process is, why it is vital, and the different kinds of discovery.
What is meant by Discovery?
“Discovery” refers to the formal process for lawyers and their clients to collect critical information about a pending case. This process enables the parties to learn what information the opposing side has. Further, it helps uncover crucial evidence that is present in the case or details that can lead to impactful evidence in your case down the road. This process is meant to help lawyers prepare for the lawsuit and avoid surprises.
Why is Discovery Vital to Your Case?
Discovery allows your lawyer to prepare for the lawsuit and collect information to support the case. A part of the information that is uncovered could be used against the other side later on or to assist either side as it attempts to reach a settlement.
The Discovery Process: Steps
There are four key methods of discovery: interrogatories, request for documents, request for admissions, and depositions.
Interrogatories represent a straightforward way for lawyers to collect information about the case. At this stage, one party provides written questions to the adversarial side, who must answer each question thoroughly and to the best of their knowledge under oath. In interrogatories, the common things that are asked are as follows:
- Contact details.
- Insurance coverage information and limits.
- The identity of expert witnesses who may be asked to testify.
- The identity of other witnesses who may be called to testify.
- Explanation of how the incident happened.
- Identification of other parties who may be liable in the case.
- Identification of proof that will be used in the case.
- Information on medical treatment undergone, lost earnings, and other claimed damages.
If new information is revealed after the answers are submitted, the party must provide supplementary answers with the additional information to the other side.
Request for Documents
In this part of the discovery process, actual evidence is provided to the other parties on request. In general, a party may respond to such requests by objecting to them, providing copies of the documents, or allowing the other side to go over the documents and make their own copies. The documents that are requested may include the following:
- Medical bills.
- Medical records, physician’s notes, and other records of treatment.
- Employment records indicating time lost from work.
- Photos or video of the crash site and injuries.
- Damage reports.
- Law enforcement or accident reports.
Request for Admissions
Request for admissions involves presenting a series of allegations to the opposing party and ask that party to admit or deny each one. This helps narrow the issues in a lawsuit so that the lawyer does not waste time on uncontested areas. In case a party admits to specific facts, the admission can be introduced as a fact at trial without having to prove it.
Depositions refer to sworn statements. During a deposition, an individual will answer questions from a lawyer, and a court reporter will create a transcript of all that is stated. Depositions can range from an hour to a week or even more.
While every lawyer has their own strategy for depositions, there are mainly three reasons to do them:
- To lock people into their stories.
- To understand what the other side has.
- To undertake a “practice trial” to see how a witness will appear and conduct themselves. in front of a judge or jury.
Your lawyer will tell you what they want from you if you are deposed. However, there are two key things to remember. First, never guess. A deposition aims to provide facts, not speculate on what might have occurred.
It may make you feel self-conscious to say it, but sometimes “I don’t know” is the correct response. Secondly, as human beings, we want to explain things to ensure that our audience understands. However, you should resist the impulse to explain. It is your adversary’s job to get answers. You only need to answer the question asked, not to provide additional information.
Limitations on Discovery
Certain kinds of information are considered protected and cannot be subject to discovery. The communication between parties in specific relationships holds privilege, and it is not necessary to share information exchanged within the relationship in confidentiality. The information exchanged in the following relationships is considered privileged:
- Doctor and Patient
- Attorney and Client
- Religious Advisor and Advisee
Hire a Competent Personal Injury Attorney for Help with Your Lawsuit
In a personal injury case, discovery can mean the difference between winning and losing. You should expect elaborate and detailed discovery requests as a defendant. But discovery can also be used to narrow and clarify things, which can lead to a settlement. It takes a skilled legal team to respond to discovery while preserving your rights and working for an out-of-court settlement.
If you would like more information on the discovery process and how it may affect your case, contact the seasoned personal injury team at the law offices of Stein & Fox. Contact us today at (770) 961-1700 to schedule a complimentary consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, and you don’t have to pay anything upfront. We only get paid when we recover compensation for you.