Personal Injury Lawyer
Discovery is the process through which parties to a lawsuit obtain the evidence they need to develop their case and use at trial. Each side will need information and documents from their opponent in order to prove their claims and defenses, and discovery provides a formal method of exchanging that information.
The discovery portion of a lawsuit will begin after the defendant has filed an answer to the complaint. The attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant will meet at the beginning of the discovery phase to make a schedule and set deadlines for the various phases of discovery.
In a personal injury case where the plaintiff has been injured on someone else’s property, they might seek information relating to the condition of premises they were injured on, who owned or controlled that premises, and whether anyone was responsible for supervising the premises. If the plaintiff was injured by a product, such as a vehicle, the plaintiff might seek information regarding whether the product was defective, who manufactured and sold the product, and whether the defendant was misusing the product. In both scenarios, the defendant will want information regarding the plaintiff’s behavior during and after the accident, the plaintiff’s injuries, and any medical care the plaintiff sought, among other things.
Common Methods of Discovery in Personal Injury Cases
Throughout the discovery phase, each party will request the information they need from the other side using several different fact-gathering methods. The most common methods include interrogatories, requests for production, depositions, and requests for admission.
Interrogatories are written lists of questions that one party sends the opposing party, asking for detailed answers to specific factual allegations or other information in the complaint or answer.
Requests for production are requests made to an opposing party to send documents, memorandum, emails, and any other relevant documentation relating to the subject matter of the lawsuit.
Depositions are often the most important part of discovery in a personal injury case. A deposition is a live interview with a potential witness, taken under oath. A court reporter will be present, and the deposition will usually be recorded. Depositions are an opportunity for each side to gather information directly from those potentially involved in the case and get a clearer picture of what a witness will testify to at trial.
Requests for admission are written requests sent to an opposing party, asking them to admit or deny specific factual allegations. Requests for admission are usually sent after depositions have been conducted to solidify important facts.
Limits on Discovery
Some documents and information will be protected from discovery, meaning the opposing party does not have to produce a document or disclose the information because it is confidential. Information and documents subject to the attorney-client privilege and the duty of confidentiality are immune from disclosure. Additionally, other confidential information such as trade secrets is protected from discovery and will not have to be disclosed to opposing counsel. Lastly, the work product doctrine protects any materials that an attorney has prepared in anticipation of litigation from discovery. This includes things like meeting notes, internal memoranda, and documents that reflect an attorney’s impressions, conclusions, opinions, or theories about the case. To learn more about the discovery process as it pertains to personal injury cases, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on the discovery process in personal injury cases.