Recovering compensation in a personal injury case is often a lengthy process. There are many steps leading up to a lawsuit. The discovery phase is where both the plaintiff and defendant gather evidence and learn critical details that help to shape the case.
In today’s article, the attorneys at Schmidt Kramer explain more about discovery in a legal claim, including why it matters to your case.
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What Is Discovery in a Personal Injury Case?
At this stage of the legal process, the attorneys do not yet have all the information they need. The discovery phase provides attorneys to both the plaintiff and defendant the ability to gain access to the same evidence and details about the accident.
What Happens in the Discovery Process?
You can think of the discovery phase as a pre-trial investigation. The gathering of data during this process happens in a formal way through:
Request for Production (RFP)
The request for production is essentially a formal document requesting several items of evidence and other factual details about the incident that caused you harm. Some examples of items that may be included in an RFP include:
- Accident scene evidence
- Witness statements
- Relevant medical records
- Medical invoices related to the incident
Request for Admission (RFAs)
Requests for admission are statements submitted from either side (plaintiff or defendant) to the opposing party. The statements provide another opportunity for the attorneys to gather information and evidence for the case. The plaintiff and defendant will need to respond, either by admitting or denying each statement.
For example, to the defendant, a plaintiff’s attorney might include the following admit/deny statement:
The vehicle you were operating struck the plaintiff who was walking in a designated crosswalk on a specified day, date and time.
Your only response would be to truthfully admit or deny that statement.
RFPs can be sent by either party’s attorney. The purpose is to further define and clarify the things that happened leading up to the event that caused the victim’s injury.
Interrogatories (written questions and answers)
You can think of interrogatories as an investigation and the lawyers from both sides as the detectives. Each lawyer asks the other side a set of written questions. The answers to these questions help the lawyers to gain additional facts and details about the case.
Just like detectives use clues to solve an investigation, attorneys use this question-and-answer technique strategically to strengthen their case. Once the plaintiff and defendant answer the interrogatories, with the help of their attorneys, they must sign the document under oath. The advantage of how the answers to these questions are provided is that both sides have an opportunity to be more detailed in their response.
In an investigation, detectives may conduct a recorded interview with suspects and other individuals to dig deeper into a case. The purpose, of course, is to get them closer and closer to the truth until their case is solved. Similarly, attorneys in a personal injury case use a deposition to find out more about an accident and/or the plaintiff or defendant’s story.
As you can see, each part of the discovery phase provides more details and helps to build the case bit by bit. The RFAs are simply admit or deny, and the interrogatories are written questions and answers signed under oath. Depositions go yet a step further.
Depositions take place in a legal setting, allowing one side’s attorney to question the other side. These sessions provide an additional opportunity for each attorney to go even deeper. It is also important to point out that depositions are recorded.
For example, if you are the injured plaintiff suing the defendant who caused the incident and your injuries, his or her attorney could request a deposition with you.
Does the Discovery Phase Help or Hurt an Injury Case?
The discovery phase enables both sides of a personal injury case to gather evidence and details. Like any type of investigation, there are likely going to be surprises and complications for both sides. Let’s face it, liability for a personal injury case is rarely straightforward.
That said, this is exactly why you could greatly benefit from having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney managing your case. Surprises revealed during the discovery phase can sometimes have a negative impact. You do not want to get halfway through a case only to find out you have an attorney who is less experienced or unwilling to go the extra mile to get the job done.
Additionally, hiring an attorney with a proven history of managing cases similar to yours may significantly increase your chances for an optimum outcome.
Need an Experienced Attorney to Take on Your Legal Case? Call Us Today
At Schmidt Kramer, we have a team of highly qualified attorneys with years of experience managing personal injury cases. We also have a proven history of success, having recovered over $100 million for our clients.
Not sure if you have a case? We offer a free, no-obligation case review to help you learn about your legal options. If you have a case and we represent you, there are upfront costs and no out-of-pocket fees. Our experienced personal injury lawyers in Harrisburg are ready to help, and we only get paid if you do.
Call our law offices to discuss your situation today. (717) 727-1403