What Is the Discovery Phase of a Personal Injury Case?
Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2021 at 10:07 pm
One of the most important parts of a personal injury lawsuit involves the discovery phase. If you have never been involved in a lawsuit before, you may not know what the discovery phase of a lawsuit involves. However, if you have a personal injury case that is headed to court, you should familiarize yourself with this important process.
What Is Discovery?
The discovery phase of a lawsuit is when both sides exchange information about the evidence and witnesses that may be presented at trial. Discovery is intended to ensure that each side understands the facts and theories of the other side’s case so that each side can prepare their own case.
Discovery is also designed to help narrow down the issues that will need to be resolved at trial. Through discovery, the parties may come to an agreement on certain facts, eliminating the need for a jury or judge to decide those facts.
Discovery is meant to help streamline the litigation process and prevent “trial by ambush,” where a party is surprised with evidence at trial with no opportunity to find and present opposing evidence.
What Are the Steps in Discovery?
The discovery phase may involve multiple steps depending on the types of evidence involved. In the first step, the parties will exchange interrogatories and requests for the production of documents. Interrogatories are questions that each party asks of the other. They are intended to help each party with their investigation of the case, including identifying potential sources of evidence or witnesses. Requests for the production of documents ask a party to provide copies of relevant documents in the party’s possession or control, such as reports or records.
Another major step in discovery involves taking depositions. A deposition is an out-of-court statement or testimony provided under oath by someone involved with the case or with knowledge relevant to the case. Depositions usually involve each side having the opportunity to ask questions of the witness being deposed. In many cases, witnesses who are expected to testify at trial will be subjected to a deposition so that the parties have an idea of what the witness will testify about at trial. Any differences between deposition and trial testimony may be used to call a witness’s credibility into question at trial. Depositions may also be used to get the testimony of a witness who cannot appear at trial, with the deposition testimony later read into evidence at trial.
Other steps in the discovery phase of a personal injury case may involve having the plaintiff submit to a medical examination, issuing subpoenas to obtain records or other documents relevant to the case, or submitting documents or evidence for examination to determine their authenticity.
Although parties to a case are expected to cooperate in discovery and provide timely, complete responses to all discovery requests, parties may sometimes get into discovery disputes. A party that has not received a complete response to their discovery request may seek an order compelling the other side to promptly respond to a discovery request. Or a party may lodge an objection to a discovery request on the grounds that fulfilling the request would pose an unfair burden on the producing party or on the grounds that the request seeks irrelevant information or information protected from disclosure by legal privilege. When discovery disputes arise, trial courts can issue orders either directing a party to comply or quashing a party’s discovery request.
What Happens at the End of Discovery?
At the end of the discovery phase of a personal injury case, one or both parties may file a motion for summary judgment. In a summary judgment motion, a party argues that the uncontested facts show that no genuine factual disputes remain to be decided. The motion states that based on the facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If a summary judgment motion is granted by the trial court, the moving party wins the case and the need for a trial is eliminated. However, courts may sometimes grant only partial summary judgment to a party, resolving only certain issues in favor of the moving party. The remaining outstanding issues will proceed to trial.
If factual disputes remain between the parties, the trial court will hold a pre-trial conference to identify the issues to be tried and to schedule a date to start the trial.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer from Portner Bond, PLLC for Help with Your Case
If you have a personal injury case and want to know more about what is involved in the litigation process and its discovery phase, call the Beaumont personal injury lawyers of Portner Bond, PLLC at (409) 838-4444 or contact us through our website today for a free, no-obligation consultation. You’ll speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney from our legal team who can advise you about your rights and options.