This blog series aims to give current and potential clients information to help them understand the various stages of a personal injury lawsuit. The first five parts of this blog series have covered hiring an attorney, investigation of your claim, getting treatment, pre-suit negotiations, and filing suit. The next stage in your lawsuit is the discovery phase.
The discovery phase of your lawsuit is just like it sounds, the chance to discover information about the defendant that may be helpful to your case. Generally speaking, there are three types of discovery. The first is called ‘interrogatories’ which is a series of written questions. The second is called ‘document production’ which, as it sounds, are documents you ask the defendant to give you. The last type of discovery is ‘depositions’ which is a series of questions asked under oath of the parties, witnesses, experts and any other individuals that may be helpful to your case.
The first two, interrogatories and document production, are sent to the defendant in writing. The defendant has thirty days (unless they request more time) to send written responses and copies of the documents. Often, the attorneys will disagree over the nature, scope, or subject matter of the questions. When that happens, a Judge will be asked to get involved and make decisions about these disagreements. There can be multiple rounds of written requests sent between the parties.
The last type of discovery, depositions, does not typically happen until both parties are finished exchanging written information and documents. Depositions are taken under oath in the presence of a court reporter. The court reporter is trained to type every word said during the deposition and create a transcript of the entire conversation. The attorney asks the witness a series of questions about nearly all aspects of the case. The purpose of depositions is to give the parties an idea of what will be said during trial.
In a straight forward case with one plaintiff and one defendant, the process usually takes a matter of months. In more complicated cases, or cases with multiple parties, the discovery process can take years.
The discovery phase, while frustrating as a client, is one of the most helpful aspects in getting your case resolved. Negotiating the intricacies of a lawsuit can be difficult. Have a legal question about your case? Call our offices, one of our attorneys will be glad to speak with you.