Our court systems do not allow “surprises” over the course of a personal injury lawsuit. To prevent this from happening, each party must disclose all relevant facts and documents to the other party prior to trial. Disclosure of these facts and documents is called discovery and takes 3 basic forms:
o Written discovery;
o Document production; and
Written Discovery: Interrogatories and Requests for Admission
Interrogatories come in 2 forms: boilerplate or specific. Boilerplate interrogatories are usually pre-printed and focus on more general questions. Specific interrogatories focus more on the facts of your case and tie directly in to your case.
Requests for admission can be very useful to your personal injury lawsuit. When filing a request for admission, you are asking the other party to admit or deny certain facts in your case. More than that, there are penalties for lying, answering late, or not answering at all.
Documents and Depositions
Document production can be anywhere from slight, in more simple cases, to voluminous, in more complex medical malpractice or product liabilities cases. Recently, courts have begun to allow computer files as part of discovery.
Depositions are sworn answers in response to questions from an attorney made in the presence of a court reporter. There are 3 basic reasons to perform a deposition:
o To “lock” people into their stories;
o To see what the opposing party has for evidence or theories on their case; and
o To determine how a witness will conduct themselves on the witness stand.
When being deposed, there are 2 very basic things to remember:
o Never guess as to what happened, just answer with what you know; and
o Answer only the question asked without offering any additional information.
The discovery stage of a personal injury lawsuit can be very complicated and will require guidance from a skilled personal injury attorney to ensure you are adequately prepared to present your case and defend your position in a court of law.