The Discovery Phase of Personal Injury Cases

Discovery is the name for the pre-trial investigation portion of a personal injury case. It occurs after a schedule has been established for the case by the court and is one of the most important phases of any case. During discovery, both sides must share all information they have regarding the case. And based on the documents and depositions provided during this phase, the course of the rest of the case is set.

Initial Discovery

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The initial discovery includes interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for the production of documents, and subpoenas. All of this information will later be used to inform the next step of discovery, the depositions.

Interrogatories are written questionnaires regarding the case that both sides provide to one another. Because these questionnaires can be full of legal jargon, it is a good idea to fill them out with your lawyer present so they can translate the questions into layman’s terms.

Requests for admissions are how lawyers from both sides can determine facts that will not be disputed later on if the case makes it all the way to trial. For example, if your injury was caused when you were hit by a car, your attorney may seek to have the speed at which the car was traveling admitted as fact. That way, the defense cannot claim later on that the car was actually traveling at a much slower rate when it struck you.

Requests for production of documents are when both sides formally request specific pieces of evidence from the opposition. As a plaintiff, you will likely be asked to produce medical treatment and evaluation records, medical bills, pre- and post-injury earning statements, and more.

Subpoenas are court orders for third parties to turn over documents and evidence they have that may be integral to the case. If your injury occurred outside of a business that was otherwise uninvolved, the business may be subpoenaed so that the attorneys for both parties can access surveillance camera recordings that captured the incident. Or, if you were injured in a car accident and are bringing suit against the car manufacturer, maintenance records may be subpoenaed from a third-party auto repair shop.

Depositions

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Depositions are simply sworn testimonies that are gathered prior to a case going to court. During a deposition, questions will be asked by the opposing lawyer and whoever is being deposed will have to answer the questions under oath. A court reporter will be present to document the depositions and make the audio, video, or written copies available to both parties.

In most cases, only the defendant and plaintiff will be deposed. However, it is also possible for an eyewitness to be deposed if their testimony can shine a light on an otherwise disputed aspect of the accident. For example, if both parties disagree on fundamental facts about the case, and there is no video of the incident, eyewitness testimony may be used to figure out what really happened.

Expert Examinations & Opinions

medical examiner expert witness

The defense may request that you undergo an independent medical examination (IME) as part of discovery. Despite the name, IMEs are anything but independent. They are medical examinations performed by a physician selected and compensated by the opposing party. The purpose of an IME is to provide the defense with an additional (often more favorable to them) examination of your injuries and medical improvement.

Medical professionals and other subject matter experts for both sides will also be deposed and have a chance to give their opinions during discovery. While doctors are the most frequently deposed experts, a car accident case may also have crash reconstruction experts to testify on the severity of an impact.

Conclusion

Discovery is the pre-trial investigation phase of a personal injury lawsuit. It begins with the initial discovery, which includes interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for production of documents, and subpoenas. Once this information is gathered, depositions commence. Both the plaintiff and defendant will be deposed by the opposing counsel, as will any key witnesses. Finally, subject matter experts will examine the evidence and provide their opinions through further depositions.

Donaghue & Labrum Trial Lawyers

At Donaghue & Labrum, we have been successfully representing personal injury plaintiffs for over 25 years. Regardless of whether your injury was caused by a slip and fall, car accident, or medical malpractice, our attorneys have the experience needed to successfully settle your claim or take it all the way to trial. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your case.