Discovery refers to a phase in a civil action during which the parties exchange information and evidence. Each party may continue pursuing claims and gathering evidence to prepare for a trial.
The discovery process is an essential part of a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, the defendant or insurance provider is willing to settle the case after the discovery of admissible evidence. A pre-trial settlement could benefit both parties and save time, money, and resources.
For example, a party may view the additional evidence gathered during discovery and realize their case is weaker than the other party’s case. As a result, the party may be willing to negotiate a compromise to settle the case instead of taking a chance in court.
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What Types of Tools are Available for Discovery?
Federal and state rules of civil procedure govern the discovery requests used in specific courts. The rules explain the discovery devices each party may use, including the scope and limitations of each discovery tool.
Some of the common discovery tools used in a personal injury lawsuit include:
Requests for Production of Documents
A party may submit requests for the production of documents to the other party. The responding party must answer each of the requests under oath.
Unless the document contains information that is privileged or there is a valid legal reason to withhold the document, the party must comply with the requests. Lawyers are not compelled to turn over their work product either.
A party may respond that they do not have the document and/or have no knowledge of the document. In that case, the requesting party might petition the court to compel the defendant to turn over the document. The defendant must have a valid legal reason for withholding the document or face court penalties.
This discovery tool is excellent for viewing the documents the party intends to present as evidence during the trial.
Interrogatories and requests for production are similar information-gathering tools. However, instead of requesting documents, you request information. The party must answer your questions under oath.
Interrogatories are a great way to learn about the other party’s witness list and other evidence.
Request for Admissions
Request for admissions is a list of statements submitted to the other party. The party either admits or denies each statement. If the party does not have sufficient information to either admit or deny a request, the party must state so in the response.
Requests for admissions are often used to narrow the issues for trial. The parties find common facts that they may stipulate instead of arguing about every single fact of the case.
Depositions are common discovery tools used in personal injury cases. During a deposition, the witness is placed under oath by a court reporter. Then, the attorney holding the deposition asks questions for the witness to answer.
The deposition is like testifying in court. Your answers are under oath, and the responses may be used in court if you change your story. However, the deposition is more relaxed, and the information you can obtain through a deposition may or may not be used in court, such as hearsay.
The attorney may depose the other party in the case, eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, and other parties with information relating to the case. The attorneys may agree that each attorney may ask questions during the deposition or that only the attorney holding the deposition questions the witness.
A subpoena can be a powerful tool during discovery. With a subpoena, you can require parties to turn over a document that they might not need to turn over without the subpoena. For instance, cell phone records for a distracted driver may be subpoenaed.
Subpoenas can also compel a party to appear to testify at a pre-trial hearing or deposition. In some situations, a witness refuses to appear at a deposition until the court issues a subpoena.
How Long Does the Discovery Process Take?
Depending on the type of case, discovery could last a few months to more than a year. For example, large class action lawsuits, medical malpractice cases, and product liability claims often require lengthy discovery.
The parties need time to retain and work with experts. Additionally, requests to produce could result in thousands of pages that must be reviewed. Based on the information received during discovery, the parties may investigate certain matters further or submit additional discovery requests to the other party.
Discovery can be time-consuming in large cases. However, discovery can be completed within a few months in many personal injury cases. Our legal team works diligently on discovery requests to complete and evaluate the requests in a timely manner.
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If you were injured in an accident, we want to help you get the money you deserve. Contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with one of our Miami personal injury attorneys.