What takes place between the filing of a lawsuit and the end result can be both mysterious and complicated. Discovery is the process that provides the parties with the information (evidence) necessary for that end result. This can be done via requests for admissions and depositions, answers to interrogatories, and production of documents. The result allows the parties to investigate each other’s claims and minimize surprises, thus shaping the substance of the case. Discovery is broad in general. A party may obtain discovery regarding any matter that is relevant to the action, except that which is privileged (confidential communications between attorney and client). This covers the impressions, conclusions, opinions, memoranda, notes, legal theories, etc. that your attorney may have put in writing.
Interrogatories are simply written questions submitted by one party to another, which are answered under oath and can be used at trial. These questions are typically very fact-based (what happened on this date, what did you see, etc.). Fortunately, your attorney is present when these questions are asked of you or a witness, and can provide you with advice during the process.
Requests for Admission
Requests for admission are similar to interrogatories but more challenging in that they require the party being questioned to only either admit or deny a specific fact relevant to the case.
A deposition is a formal interview conducted by opposing party’s attorney and recorded by a court reporter. These must also be given under oath and can be used at trial. Depositions can be done in order to obtain information, or also to gauge how someone would conduct themselves if called to the stand. Your attorney can advise you on how to conduct yourself in the deposition; it is often advised to admit that you do not know a particular answer to a question rather than guessing, and avoid offering additional information and long-winded explanations.
Document production involves each party requesting/needing to see any and all documents that could relate to the case.
How Does This Affect My Personal Injury Case?
The discovery process essentially determines what comes out at trial. In this sense, it is sometimes likened to a smaller pre-trial. It is crucial that your attorney ask the right questions that will elicit the information needed to prove your case. For example, if your case is dependent on proving negligence, your attorney needs to ask the right questions that will help demonstrate to the court that the defendant did not perform a necessary duty which led to your injury.
Speak with an Experienced Attorney
It is imperative that you speak with experienced counsel in any potential case where discovery is involved, given how complicated it is, and the ability for the discovery process to shape the case. From our office just outside Philadelphia in Jenkintown, PA, Solnick & Associates, LLC represents clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including the counties of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware, as well as the state of New Jersey.