The discovery process is a significant part of a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer and the defendant’s attorney use discovery to gather evidence to prepare for the upcoming trial. They can request information from each other to determine what evidence the other party will present and how to argue against it.
It is important to have an attorney who can handle discovery and other aspects of your lawsuit. Hiring someone immediately after an accident is crucial. However, if you have handled your case alone so far, consider retaining legal services before the discovery stage starts.
Elements of the Discovery Process in Personal Injury Cases
The discovery process starts after you file a lawsuit against someone else, and they respond to your initial complaint against them. The complaint includes details of the incident and the allegations against the defendant.
Discovery includes four primary legal documents filed with the court:
- Requests for Admissions
- Requests for Production
Requests for Admissions
Each lawyer will file requests for admissions for the opposing party to answer. A request for admissions is a series of statements the responding party must admit to or deny. For example, your attorney might request the defendant to deny or admit to being at the accident scene. This aspect of discovery helps each lawyer decide what facts they should discuss at trial.
An interrogatory is a list of questions or statements related to the case. You and the defendant must each respond to the interrogatories the opposing party requests. Providing information for interrogatories can be time-consuming. State law limits the number of interrogatories to 25 unless the court orders more or both parties agree to a different number.
It might not seem like too much to handle, but your responses must be accurate and truthful. The last page of interrogatories typically includes a place for your signature and a notary public’s signature. That means you provide your answers under oath. Putting false information forward can negatively affect your lawsuit and potentially lead to legal consequences.
Some interrogatories are irrelevant to the case. You might not have to respond to them. This is where having an experienced lawyer is helpful. They can inform you of the questions you must answer and when you can object to providing specific information.
Some common interrogatories in a personal injury case include:
- Your name, contact information, and other basic details
- Brief description of how the incident occurred and who you believe is at fault
- Type and severity of the injuries you sustained in the accident
- Type of treatment you sought, including the names of the doctors and dates of treatment
- Description of how the injury affects your daily life and whether it prevents you from working or completing routine tasks
- Prior accidents that caused injuries or conditions you had before the most recent incident
- The name of your insurance company and policy number
- Any damage to your personal property during the accident and the extent of the damage
A deposition is a question-and-answer session involving opposing parties in a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer can request a deposition from the defendant to get information about the case on record. The defendant’s attorney can also request a deposition from you.
The deposition occurs in a neutral, informal setting with each party, their lawyer, and a court reporter. The court reporter records everything said during the session. When the deposition ends, the court reporter creates a transcript each side can use as evidence.
You are under oath during a deposition. That means you must answer every question honestly. Lying won’t help your case, especially if the opposing party finds out later. They could present your statements as evidence to show the judge or jury that you are unreliable as a witness.
Requests for Production
Your attorney and the defense lawyer can request evidence from each other by filing requests for production. Evidence commonly exchanged in a request for production includes:
- Your medical records and bills
- Copy of the police/incident report
- Security camera footage of the accident
- Documentation of personal property damaged during the incident
- Photos from the accident scene
- Statements from experts, such as medical providers and accident reconstruction specialists
- Lost wage reports showing your time off from work and unearned income after the incident
Fight for Justice with Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb
At Harris, Keenan & Goldfarb, our personal injury lawyers believe in fighting for the best possible result for injured clients in New York. We understand how much you’ve struggled since the accident and want to help you hold the at-fault party accountable. Our attorneys have helped our past clients recover over $500 million in compensation and we look forward to helping many more in the years to come.