The Discovery Process
So you have hired an attorney, filed a complaint to begin your lawsuit, and are now ready for your attorney to get in front of the judge and jury to have your side of the story told. You call your attorney and ask when the case will be set for trial, and he or she explains to you that many things still need to be completed before trial. To many people, the fact that their lawsuit could take a year or two to resolve comes as a big surprise. My purpose in writing this blog is to describe one of the activities that takes place between filing a lawsuit and having the claim resolved, the discovery process.
Discovery is exactly what it sounds like, each party has the opportunity to discover the other party’s facts and documents. Primarily, this is done in four ways: interrogatories, request for production of documents, requests for admission and depositions. An interrogatory is a question asked by one party to the other party. For example, an interrogatory could ask a party to name every person they know who has knowledge of a relevant event or to identify every insurance policy that could provide coverage. The party who is responding to the interrogatory would either answer the question or object. A request for admission can be valuable to limit the issues in a case. One party can ask the other to admit specific facts, such as whether they were the owner of a specific vehicle or admit that a document was signed. The party responding to the request for admission has the option of either admitting or denying the statement. Additionally, the party can qualify an answer or deny only a part of an answer. The answering party may also object or assert a lack of knowledge or information as the reason they are failing to answer. Requests for production allow parties to request relevant documents in the other party’s possession. These documents could range from an insurance policy to e-mails discussing an agreement. The responding party has the option of either producing the requested documents or objecting to their production. If an objection is made, it may need to be accompanied by a privilege log identifying the documents being withheld and the reason they are being withheld. Depositions are another means of discovery that many people are likely somewhat familiar with due to their dramatization on television and in movies. In a deposition, both parties have the opportunity to ask a witness questions. The witness is under oath and everything said is recorded on a transcript. A deposition is another valuable tool for parties to understand the facts of the case. It is also important to lock a witness into their story so they cannot change it at a later date. While this is not a detailed analysis of every aspect or tool that can be used in discovery, I hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of the basics of this process. Of course, hiring an experienced law firm that has the talent and resources to guide you through the discovery process is important. Battles can often times take place in discovery and it is critical that you have someone willing to stand up for your rights. This will lead to a better outcome for you and your case.