There are many steps to a personal injury case. After initially filing a lawsuit, there are still many steps to take before heading to trial. One of the pre-trial phrases you may have heard about is “discovery”. What exactly is discovery, and how does it pertain to your personal injury case?
One of the key elements of a personal injury lawsuit is the burden of proof. This means you must prove that another party was liable for your injuries due to negligence in order to obtain compensation for damages. After filing a lawsuit, the attorney representing you will be in charge of gathering specific evidence to further support your claim.
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Discovery is a specific pre-trial phrase that refers to a period of time strictly dedicated to information-gathering. Each party is allowed to use several discovery devices to obtain information and evidence from the other party or parties that may be related to the claim. This evidence can be gathered through many sources and can be reviewed by both parties involved.
Discovery can be a long and complex process in a personal injury case, especially if there are large quantities of information to gather or be exchanged. However, the discovery process is extremely important and can make or break many personal injury cases.
Your personal injury attorney may use several different discovery types for your claim. Some discovery types can be stronger than others, but they are all beneficial for any case. Some of the discovery types used in personal injury cases include:
One of the key discovery tools a personal injury attorney may use is the request for the production of documents pertaining to the case. Obtaining copies of certain documents can be extremely helpful in a personal injury case, especially because this is recorded evidence that can be referenced often. For example, some of the common document copy requests in personal injury cases include:
These are just a few of the documents that could be requested and used as evidence in a personal injury claim. There are plenty of other documents that can be requested and used in a trial, but they may vary depending on the type of incident and damages involved.
Another common type of discovery for personal injury cases is interrogatories. These are a series of written questions that must be answered under oath by each party. The questions will be related to the case and any issues pertaining to it. There may be a large number of interrogatories, simply depending on how extensive the case is.
Interrogatories may even continue throughout a trial, and this can be common for a large case. There will also commonly be a deadline for the appropriate documents to be filled out with the answers to these questions. For example, you may have 30 days to fill out and return the documents that are a part of this discovery tool.
Interrogatories can ask varied questions. Some questions may ask for identifying information, as well as questions about witnesses and other evidence, and even look to gather opinions or statements as to what happened in the incident from both parties. These written answers may be referenced often during the initial pre-trial phases, as well as during the trial if the case is moved forward.
During a deposition, the attorney will ask a person various questions. The person is under oath and has sworn to tell the complete truth when answering these questions. Much like interrogatories, depositions are used to gather answers for details of the case.
Depositions are recorded by a court reporter and are then transcribed word-for-word. Depositions can be taken of the plaintiff, defendant, and other key witnesses to the event. This discovery type can actually be crucial in some personal injury cases.
Requests for admissions involve having each party in the case deny or admit certain facts. These facts may be very simple and straightforward and can be used to narrow down what further details need to be further investigated in the claim.
All parties involved are answering under oath. A party’s silence and refusal to answer can also be considered a deemed admission. These answers can also be brought up in court later in the event that one party tries to change their story.
Subpoenas are often used in personal injury cases. A subpoena is a written order from the court that can compel a certain action. As an example, a subpoena can require a person to provide a deposition for the case.
Subpoenas are not meant to be ignored. In fact, parties that fail to comply with subpoenas may face further problems in court.
Discovery can be detrimental to any personal injury case. This phase allows both parties to gather evidence and build their case, while also helping to narrow down the issues that will be presented at trial. Discovery may help you spot some weak points in your case that may need further supporting evidence, and allow you to strategize on the next move.
The process of discovery can also be useful for settlement negotiations. In fact, once both sides have exchanged information and evidence, they may be content with settling the matters of the case outside of court.
As previously mentioned, sometimes after the discovery process in a personal injury case, both parties may be looking to conduct settlement negotiations. The evidence obtained during the discovery allows both parties to look at the strengths and weaknesses behind their case, which may open up mediation or negotiation. Having more information can allow parties to see whether the case is worth taking to trial or not.
As an example, an insurance company may find the plaintiff has a great case with a lot of supporting evidence. The plaintiff may also come across as honest and sympathetic in their deposition. Therefore, the insurance company will be more inclined to pay more to settle the case before trial.
Though there may be many instances where personal injury cases are settled before going to court after the discovery process, other cases may still make it to court after failing to settle. In this case, the discovery process is followed by further steps on the way to a trial.
The most important part of a personal injury case is proving another party was liable for your injuries and other damages. The discovery process is key to obtaining the right evidence, whether it be photographs, witness statements, and further admissions. Though this process may be extensive, working alongside a professional personal injury attorney can make the process much smoother.
Your attorney should have the experience to navigate the discovery process, as well as walk you through it. The discovery process of a personal injury case is vital when it comes to gathering evidence and building your claim.