What happens during the discovery process of a lawsuit?
Since the late 1940s, federal courts have required the parties of a lawsuit to disclose all relevant information to the other party prior to the date of trial. This process is called “discovery” and plays an essential role in the entire lawsuit. The discovery process is essentially the first phase of lawsuit preparation, and can be thought of as “fact-finding” portion.
The process of discovery.
Discovery is an essential part of any lawsuit (including personal injury suits). There are three basic forms:
- Written discovery
- Document production
Each of the above parts is a separate process with a specific set of guidelines and rules. An overview of those parts is listed below.
This part of the process includes both interrogatories and requests for admission. The best way to explain interrogatories is to describe them as questions you need to answer about your version of the facts of a case. The interrogatories can either be in a pre-printed form or they can be specific questions that are related solely to your case. The questions can be rather general in nature, but are often specific.
While requests for admission are not used very often, they can prove to be very powerful tools. If a request for admission is used, the lawyer will ask a party to either admit or deny some of the facts that pertain to the case in question. There can be penalties if they fail to answer, answer late, or answer untruthfully.
Each party is entitled to see most of the documents that are even remotely related to the case. This is particularly true in cases that involve medical malpractice or product liability because the paperwork can be rather substantial in nature. It is becoming more common for the courts to allow computer files to enter into the process of document discovery. Sometimes they may even allow the parties to reconstruct deleted files (although this practice is not as common).
During a deposition an attorney will ask questions of the party, and a court reporter will create a transcript of the conversation. The deposition can last as short as an hour or continue for a week or longer. Even though each lawyer has his or her own deposition strategy, the primary three reasons for doing them are:
- Locking people into a statement;
- Discovering what information the other party has; and
- Determining how a witness will perform in the presence of a judge or jury.
Things to keep in mind.
There are some things you may want to keep in mind about the process of discovery, such as the following:
- Do not attempt to hide anything from your attorney—it will come out at some time during the discovery process.
- It is essential for you to be completely honest with your attorney about everything connected to your case. It is impossible for your lawyers to do the best job if they don’t have all the facts.
- The process of discovery can be long, frustrating, and quite expensive (not to mention intrusive).
- Avoid lying at all costs. Nothing will result in the loss of a lawsuit faster than dishonesty.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit and would like to better understand the discovery process, let our attorneys discuss it with you. For a free consultation regarding a personal injury case in Texas, fill out the contact form on this page or call our office (toll-free) at 1-877-405-4313.