Posted on: 17 August 2015Share
Surprise! That's one word that you never want to hear during a personal injury case. Luckily for you, the American legal system makes it easy to never hear that word once during a trial. Ever since the late 1940s, the Federal Court has demanded that all evidence and all witnesses that either the prosecution or defense has up its sleeve must be shared with the other side. Throughout the course of your personal injury case, you will come across a process known as fact finding and discovery.
What are these processes and procedures? What makes them tick? Are they absolutely essential and required for the process of a personal injury case? These questions and more will be answered throughout the course of this brief guide. This article will be your guide to fact finding and discovery.
"Discovery" refers to one side of the court, either the prosecution or the defense, "discovering" things about the other side. One of the first things you will come across when it comes to discoveries is written discoveries.
There are different types of written discoveries. Interrogatories will be sent to you by the other side of the court (and, likewise, interrogatories will be sent by your side to the other side of the court), and these will consist of questions regarding the trial.
Discuss the questions with your personal injury attorney regarding the answer and regarding whether or not you should object to the question being asked in the first place. Yes, like a courtroom procedural, you can object to certain questions being asked if they are deemed inadmissible or leading. Requests for admission are another type of written discovery. Requests for admission are rarely used because they can rarely be used effectively, but they usually require a party to confirm or deny certain facts about the case.
Document production is a very common form of discovery and perhaps the most common form of discovery used. It should be fairly self-explanatory. Essentially, document production is the act of sharing documents relating to the court case with the other side of the court. This means that even certain documents that only tangentially apply to the case must be shared with the other side if you plan on using them in the court case itself.
There are many cases where the documents that must be produced are quite ample, such as medical malpractice suits. In personal injury cases, these documents are usually medical documents and any related ephemera or correspondence between the two parties that one has access to while the other does not.
It has become increasingly more and more common to allow digital files to be admissible in court, and therefore ripe for document production. In certain cases, files that were once deleted but are able to be recovered are admissible in court and therefore, once again, must be made available for document production.
Depositions are a form of fact finding. A deposition is essentially a sworn statement that is made between one party of the court and either the defendant or individual committed to prosecuting. These conversations, which can last anywhere from a 1 hour session to a week long interview are then recorded by a court reporter and can be admissible to a court of law. Depositions are usually performed to "lock" a person into their story, although this is not always a terribly effective method.
Fact finding and discovery are important aspects of any court case, especially one that revolves around a personal injury case. Hopefully you've learned a bit about the process so that you are prepared for these processes when they occur during your personal injury trial.