If you were injured in an accident, then you may decide to sue the responsible party for damages. If you decide to do this, then you should contact a personal injury attorney for assistance. The professional will explain to you the legal process and what it involves. Your case will likely go through several different steps or stages. Once the initial paperwork is filled out and filed, your case will advance to the discovery stage. This is confusing for many individuals, so keep reading to learn a bit about discovery.
What Is Discovery?
Both sides of the legal team will engage in discovery, and this is when the legal teams prepare for a trial. The preparation begins with the acquisition of facts and evidence. Once the legal teams get their evidence and paperwork together, discovery begins. This is where both legal teams share their obtained information with one another. In other words, the information is shared so that both sides of the legal case can prepare statements and new evidence that counter the arguments of the other team.
There are different stages of discovery, and the entire process is quite lengthy in most cases. There are minimums that apply to the discovery phase of a trial and the times are specific to the type of lawsuit or case that is being heard in court. For example, fairly simple cases that involve money collection, like when there is a dispute between a tenant and a landlord, will have a discovery that lasts only about 250 days.
However, more complicated injury cases, like ones that involve malpractice may take at least 450 days. While the discovery period is standard in many cases to allow all individuals to gather the evidence they need, it can be shortened. However, both sides of the legal team will need to agree to the shortened discovery period and the judge overseeing the case will make the decision in regard to the length of discovery.
What Happens During Discovery?
During discovery, your lawyer or legal team must share all evidence with the legal team of the sued individual or party. This team must also share their evidence with your lawyer. During this time, questions may arise about certain types of evidence and document requests may need to be made. For example, you may need to request documentation from the physician's malpractice insurance company if you find out, during discovery, that the business has decided that the physician was not at fault for the injury. Based on the information in the documentation, your lawyer then may need to conduct their own investigation. The investigation information must then be shared with the other legal team. This type of back and forth goes on during the entire length of the discovery.
In addition to fact finding and sharing, depositions are conducted by both sides of the legal team. A deposition is a statement provided by an individual involved in the personal injury case. Depositions are sworn testimony where individuals answer questions presented by lawyers. However, the process is a bit less structured than a court proceeding. While this is true, the statement can and will be used in court, so it is legally binding.
Depositions allow both legal teams to understand how witnesses will respond to questions about a legal matter well before the given court date. Legal teams can then prepare questions based on the testimony provided during the depositions.
Once depositions are completed, evidence is gathered, and both legal teams are prepared, the court proceedings may or may not advance. In many cases, the legal teams will negotiate outside of court to establish an appropriate settlement for the injury.