What is a Discovery?
When a claim for personal injury evolves into a lawsuit, there is a possibility that the case will be heard in court. Before this occurs, the plaintiff and the defendant each have the opportunity to collect evidence for their respective sides. The methodical procedure for accumulating all of this evidence is known as discovery.
Discovery means that you and your lawyers have the ability to make requests for specific kinds of records or materials in the hopes of finding some significant evidence. The discovery process enables you, as well as the legal team representing the other party, to make very broad requests.
For instance, if you were accused of medical malpractice, you might ask the hospital for one particular disciplinary record involving your doctor, or you might simply ask the hospital for all of the disciplinary records that have been kept in his department over the course of the last ten years.
Your request ought to be granted if there is even a remote possibility that the records in question might contain evidence that is pertinent to the inquiry.
The judge presiding over your case will make a decision regarding any discovery requests. If a request is granted by the judge, the other party is compelled by law to fulfill the terms of the order. They are obligated to provide you with the entirety of the requested records without making any changes to them or destroying them, or else they risk facing penalties.
What Types of Evidence Are Requested During Discovery?
You are not limited to requesting records as evidence. There are several common types of requests in a personal injury case:
- Admissions requests involve asking the other party to answer a specific question. These statements are carefully worded in order to force the person to admit something—often something contradictory to their story. In a car accident case, for example, a request for admission may state, “Did you or did you not see that the light was red before you started to turn?”
- Interrogatories are questions as well, but they are almost the polar opposite of admissions in that they are asked in an open-ended format. In a drunk driving accident case, for example, an interrogatory might ask, “What evidence do you intend to use to show that you were sober at the time of the accident?”
- A production request simply instructs the other party to “produce” a specific document or material. The request could be for disciplinary records, emails, electronic records, or physical objects that are relevant to the case.
- Depositions are formal statements taken from witnesses prior to the trial. The witness must testify under oath in front of witnesses from both sides of the case. The judge is usually not present during a deposition, but your lawyer can object to parts of it later if it is used in court.
What Impact Does Discovery Have on My Case?
In many cases, the discovery process will benefit you in a personal injury claim because you are the one who must prove your case. However, there are some ways that discovery can backfire on you:
- Sometimes, you (or the other side) will uncover evidence that weakens your case. For example, in a whiplash claim, your medical records may show that you’ve previously experienced neck pain, which the insurance company will use to deny that whiplash is to blame. A good lawyer will work with you to anticipate any flaws in your case before they arise during the formal discovery process, allowing you to better prepare your case.
- In some cases, discovery can be costly. Taking depositions, going through boxes of documents, and storing physical evidence are all expensive. Fortunately, in most personal injury cases, discovery is minimal. Your lawyer can estimate how much work your case will entail and tell you whether it is cost-effective to proceed.
The discovery phase of your case is only the beginning. But it’s significant. The information gathered during discovery will determine the strength of your case in court. Often, simply assembling sufficient evidence in discovery is sufficient to compel the other side to settle your claim.
They will not want to risk going before a judge and jury if you can show them that you have strong, compelling evidence. It’s not uncommon for an insurance company to fight you tooth and nail at the start of a case, only to cave after discovery and offer you the money you require.
If you were involved in an accident that was not your fault, you need the help of a personal injury attorney.
If you try to handle the discovery phase on your own, there is a good chance you will be taken advantage of by the other person’s insurance company. They will be looking for any reason to lower the amount of money they offer you for a settlement, and without an attorney to guide you, you will have a difficult time on your own.
Contact The Brown Firm to schedule a free consultation if you were injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault.
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