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Blog: The Very Basics Of A Civil Lawsuit: The Discovery Process

June 30, 2015

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Discovery is the gathering of information that can be used by one party to obtain facts and information about the case from the other party. For example, discovery can be used to find out basic background information about the party on the other side, such as his age, family and work experience. It is most valuable to gather information about what your opponent believes happened that led to the accident or his injuries. Discovery is signed by the party completing it. It is available to be used against the party who completes it if he later contradicts the information provided. Therefore, it can be used for more than just discovering pre-trial information. It can be used at the actual trial itself.

There is written discovery and oral discovery. Written discovery usually is in three principle forms — Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents and Requests for Admissions. Interrogatories are simply written questions. Again, these questions can be about general background, witnesses, facts about the claim or damages or other matters related to the case. Requests for Production of Documents instead of asking questions requests that you produce documents in your possession that relate to the case. These most often can be medical records, photographs, accident reports, etc. Finally, Requests for Admissions request that you admit to a fact. Once a fact is admitted then it is no longer in controversy.

Oral discovery consists primarily of depositions. A deposition is a sworn statement taken under oath. Depositions most often come after most of written discovery has been completed. A transcript is made of the deposition by a certified court reporter. The purpose of depositions is essentially the same as that written discovery. Depositions allow subject matters to be explored in much greater detail, however. The questions are asked by the attorneys. Each party is most often asked questions by the opposing counsel. Your own attorney will not generally be asking you any questions because he already knows what your response would be or can ask you off the record.

Rules of Civil Procedure in each state govern discovery. Issues do arise from time to time on the interpretation and application of those rules. For the most part, however, discovery is an efficient process of information gathering that is invaluable in the resolution of disputes.

This blog post is authored by Patrick L. Sealey and meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide legal advice in any particular circumstance or factual situation. You should consult with an attorney prior to taking any action regarding the information contained herein.  

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