What Is the Discovery Phase of a Personal Injury Case?

Discovery Files That May Be Utilized in Your Personal Injury LawsuitIf your attorney is unable to settle your slip and fall, car accident, or other personal injury accident claim, he will prepare a complaint against the negligent party and litigate your case. Once your complaint is filed with the court, your attorney will have the party you are suing—also referred to as the defendant—served with the complaint, and the defendant must file an answer in response. Then the discovery phase of your case begins. This can be a lengthy part of your case that you may wish would take less time. However, it can be a valuable way for your attorney to collect evidence to prove your case and determine how the defendant plans to raise defenses to your claim.

Types of Discovery That May Be Utilized in Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

Discovery is the process of collecting documents and finding out information from the defendant and other people or businesses that could be helpful or harmful to your case. Discovery can eliminate surprises in your case and help your attorney develop the best strategy for proving your right to compensation. There are different forms of discovery and many of these may be used in your case:

  • Interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered in writing under oath by other parties to the case. Interrogatories are limited and, like all of the other discovery tools, must be timely requested. If you do not meet the deadlines required in answering or issuing interrogatories or other discovery requests, you may not have the information you need to proceed with your case, or you could even be barred from presenting evidence in the case. 
     
  • Production of documents. A request for production of documents can be sent to any party in the case. This type of tool demands that certain documents be provided to your attorney from the party receiving the request. Email and text communications, social media posts, repair receipts, pictures, accident reports, business policies and manuals, insurance information, and expert witness reports are just a few of the documents that may be requested.
     
  • Request for admission. A request for admission asks a party to the lawsuit to admit or deny certain facts pertaining to the case. They can be used to confirm that certain facts are undisputed in your case or to try to get a party to admit certain facts that would help the party requesting the admission. If a party fails to answer such a request within the time allowed, the fact will be deemed admitted.
     
  • Depositions. Depositions are question and answer sessions where testimony is given under oath. Depositions can be video recorded or transcribed by a court reporter. In either case, a written transcript of the deposition will be produced for use in the case. A key distinction between depositions and other forms of discovery tools is that depositions can be taken of any person while the three above tools can only be sent to parties. There is no limit on how many people may be deposed, but there are limits on how long a deposition can last and how many times a particular individual can be deposed. Common goals of depositions are to lock in witness testimony, learn the other side's position, and determine what type of witness a person would be at trial.
     
  • Physical or mental examination. If you suffered injuries due to the negligence of another party, that party’s attorney may request that you be examined by their doctor or mental health expert.
     
  • Subpoena duces tecum. This device is another tool that can be used in the discovery process. Unlike production of document requests, subpoenas can be issued to non-parties. However, they are more complicated to issue and require the issuing party to meet certain obligations when issuing such subpoenas, especially in the case of medical records subpoenas.

While many cases settle before trial, some do not. Thorough discovery will be essential to proving your case at trial. However, it is also a critical tool for helping parties settle cases because of the detailed information provided through the discovery process.

At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our experienced personal injury attorneys understand the importance of conducting extensive discovery and are not afraid to take our clients’ cases to trial if necessary. To learn how we can help you with your personal injury accident claim, start an online chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.