Discovery In A Personal Injury Case

When bringing a lawsuit for a personal injury matter, it’s important to understand the role of discovery. Normally, after an accident and injury, your lawyer will attempt to negotiate a pre-suit settlement, particularly if the evidence of the liability of the other side is clear. If the settlement negotiations don’t work, the next step is the filing of a lawsuit. If you were hurt by the negligence of another, your lawyer will file and serve a Complaint on the liable party. Then the liable party (normally the lawyer hired by the liable party’s insurance carrier) will serve an answer back to you.  It is at this point that discovery starts and can become the most important part of the litigation process.

         Quite simply, discovery is the process in which parties gather information from the other side about the case. This process involves “Interrogatories” (questions), “Request for Production” (demand for documents or other such relevant memorialization), “Requests to Admit”, and finally Depositions of parties and other witnesses. Depositions normally come after the other “written” discovery, as the information from written discovery provides much of what’s needed for Depositions. Once discovery is complete, the parties should have what they need to try the case in front of a jury.

         The importance of discovery cannot be overstated, as many times key discovery leads to an advantageous settlement before trial. I have had a number of cases, particularly in Columbia South Carolina, in which something discovered shows the other side they will not do well at trial and they settle. In Columbia, SC, and elsewhere I’ve seen parties and/or other witnesses say something in deposition that can be contradicted by the record and the person impeached. Sometimes, the written discovery produces a “smoking gun” document. Sometimes, a request for admission puts a side on record with something later found to go against other evidence.

           Both the lawyer and the party should work together with discovery. The party usually knows questions the lawyer should ask or documents the lawyer should seek, beyond what the lawyer would know from reviewing the file. The parties may know witnesses and/or the other parties, and information that would help the case. That’s been my experience, particularly in those cases I mentioned in Columbia South Carolina.

Do discovery right and you can win the case!