Understanding the Discovery Process in a Personal Injury Case
You’ve been in an accident through no fault of your own. Estimates are that in your lifetime in Alabama, you have a one-in-three chance of being in an auto accident. While we hope it doesn’t happen to you, if it does, it pays to understand the process you’ll be going through to get the compensation you deserve.
Initially, there will be a negotiation with the insurance carrier for the other side. If that is unsuccessful, litigation is filed in civil court to force the other side to be responsible for the expenses related to your injury and accident. Both sides must adhere to the rules of the court when a lawsuit is filed. You are now locked in an adversarial situation with the other side and the process of litigation begins.
First is the pre-trial process which usually involves preparing the case.
You will need the documentation from the other side and they will need your records as well. Gathering this information is called the discovery process. Ever since the 1940’s the federal court has required each side disclose all relevant facts. State courts have followed.
You are expected to be truthful and hand to the other side all relevant information, not hide anything, and certainly not destroy any documents that are on a litigation hold. With the facts at hand, both sides hope to prove their case.
Three Primary Forms of Discovery
Discovery takes three main forms that all are intended to disclose as many facts as possible surrounding the accident, which will eventually be used in a court of law.
Discovery applies to both sides. Your lawyer will also have to give the other side discovery that’s relevant to your case.
The three main types of discovery are written, document production, and depositions.
Interrogatories – Rarely does the other side just turn over what you need. During the process of discovery, you compel the other side through a filing. The request should be specific and ask for dates and involvement of individuals. Written interrogatories are questions you must answer that are posed by the other side.
Document Production – Additional documents might be requested to substantiate your answers. In the case of an accident, you will ask questions, both broad and specific. There will need to be an exchange of any documents to back up your version. In a product liability case, there may be volumes of documents about how the product was brought to market, research and development, who was involved, and when.
Deposition – Additionally, you may be deposed about the extent of your injuries. Deposition are question and answer sessions under oath that are similar to providing testimony at trial. You may also be subject to a medical examination by a doctor for the other side. In the case of life-altering injuries, a life care plan may be crafted and the other side will want to depose that medical doctor.
Essentially, the other side will want to know about the extent of your injuries and your prospects for recovery.
You also can set the other side for a deposition, for example the driver of the truck that injured you. He must sit down and answer questions posed by your lawyer. It is to everyone’s advantage to limit the scope of these depositions, otherwise you could be spending time and money unnecessarily. They are often recorded and that too is shared.
All of this is part of discovery and it lays the foundation for making your case. Discovery makes sure there are as few surprises as possible in the courtroom, despite what you might see in a courtroom drama on TV.
Understand that you must be truthful. You are facing perjury if you are not and there is no faster way to lose a case than to withhold information or say something that is false.
So, whether yours is a premises liability case, an auto or trucking accident, an accident with a motorcycle, if you’ve been bitten by a dog, or injured in a big box store, all of these types of cases could end up in the discovery phase if a settlement is not reached.
That is one reason why it is best to hire a personal injury attorney who has been through the process before. Although most cases do end up settling before litigation begins, Chip Nix has taken many cases to trial during his 40 years of practice, and he has an in-depth understanding of the complexities involved with this process.
While it may sound overwhelming, Mr. Nix understands the ropes and will be happy to offer you a complimentary consultation on your case. Reach him at 334-279-7770 or by messaging us online.