If you are injured and decide to file a personal injury lawsuit, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with some of the essential steps in the legal process. One critical phase is what’s known as ‘discovery’.
Discovery in the context of personal injury law refers to an exploratory stage where both parties (the defendant and the injured party) uncover factual information about the case from one another.
This process enables lawyers from each side to learn certain details of the case before proceeding to trial.
The Purpose of Discovery
The discovery process serves multiple important functions in the personal injury claims process:
Through discovery, both sides exchange information and gather evidence about the incident from each other. This is critical to building a solid defense or attack.
Evaluating Strengths and Weaknesses
The information obtained during discovery allows lawyers for both parties to assess their case’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall potential of success.
Facilitating Settlement Negotiations
Giving the parties involved a more precise understanding of their case’s standing, discovery can prompt settlement discussions. By ‘showing their cards,’ both sides get to evaluate the risks and benefits behind pushing for a trial versus settling outside of court.
What Evidence Is Obtained in the Discovery Phase?
Within the discovery process, many forms of information related to your lawsuit can be explored. This could include relevant documents and electronically stored data, witness testimonies, physical evidence, expert testimony, forensic evidence, and anything else relevant to the claim.
There are some discovery exceptions. Not every piece of information is on the table for discovery requests. This includes details deemed irrelevant to a claim or defense and those privileged from disclosure, such as communication between you and your attorney focusing specifically on legal advice. This tends to fall within the bounds of attorney-client privilege, meaning it’s confidential.
Keep in mind that just because something surfaces during discovery does not automatically mean it will be admissible in court. There are other rules that govern what evidence is permissible.
Main Components of the Discovery Process
In order to obtain the above types of evidence, there are certain steps and requests that are made during the discovery process. Discovery requests include:
These are sets of written questions that one party sends to another, aiming to collect more details about the incident. In this format, attorneys can delve into all relevant aspects connected to the case.
There’s a maximum limit of 30 interrogatories per party involved in your lawsuit. The responses received are legally binding as they’re answered under oath.
Requests for Documents
This involves a demand for copies of all documents pertinent to the case, made by either party involved. These could be physical papers or electronically stored information.
Common examples of documents include car accident reports and police reports, eyewitness statements, medical history and records, and expenses related to injuries sustained during the incident. In essence, any relevant and permissible written evidence might qualify.
Admissions of Fact
This component involves one party requesting the other to admit, deny, or state their unawareness regarding certain facts related to the legal case.
The court may give permission for these admissions which helps in decreasing unnecessary disputes over certain information and narrows down issues needing proof during trial.
If a fact is admitted by one party, it’s generally accepted as true by the court without requiring further evidence.
Depositions are a way to record individuals’ testimony related to the case on the record. They play a crucial role in formulating trial strategies and confronting potential inconsistencies if an individual changes their account during actual proceedings.
Multiple people could be called for deposition, including parties directly involved in the accident as well as third-party witnesses who might provide independent views about what happened. For example, this might include coworkers if you were injured at work. Additionally, expert witnesses are often deposed.
Typically carried out in an attorney’s office as opposed to a courtroom, depositions take place after the filing of the lawsuit and prior to the commencement of a trial.
When issued with notice of deposition, it is mandatory that you respond and participate. Failure or refusal can possibly lead to court sanctions.
The Role of Legal Representation in the Discovery Process
Attorneys play an integral part in the discovery phase and their role is multifaceted. Attorneys are responsible for:
Formulating Discovery Requests
Lawyers draft detailed requests for information relevant to your case while also responding appropriately to requests from the opposition’s legal team. For example, if you’ve lost a loved one and are dealing with a wrongful death claim, a lawyer would ensure that all medical records and hospital notes are requested and obtained.
Preparing for Depositions
Your attorney will guide you through deposition preparation, ensuring you understand what’s expected, how to respond effectively, and strategies on dealing with difficult questions.
Evaluating and Strategizing
Leveraging details obtained during discovery, attorneys assess the strengths of your claim. They use this information to develop a legal strategy that offers the best chances of success at trial or in settlement negotiations.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Navigating a personal injury lawsuit can be complex as well as emotionally taxing. Therefore, having an experienced attorney by your side is critical. Your attorney will bring legal expertise to the table while also providing emotional support.
If you’ve suffered a personal injury or know someone who might need help handling such matters, don’t hesitate to contact us to set up a no-cost consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers, you can call us at (312) 929-2884.