discovery process of a personal injury case

Understanding the Discovery Process in a Personal Injury Case

When an individual suffers an injury that was someone else’s fault, they can file a claim for damages. This is common in cases such as car accidents, slip and fall/premises liability accidents, hospital accidents, accidents caused by defective or dangerous products, and many others.

The first legal step after a personal injury is usually to try to obtain a fair settlement from the responsible party (or their insurer). However, there are many instances in which insurance adjusters undervalue a claim and will not give the injured person a reasonable settlement offer. When this occurs, your attorney may decide to file a lawsuit.

Once a lawsuit is filed, you are in litigation and the case moves to the jurisdiction of the court. There are typically several months between the time of the filing and the trial date, and during that time, there is a crucial phase in the case that is known as “discovery”.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is a court-sanctioned process that allows the parties in a lawsuit to request and exchange information that is related to the case. This gives each side the opportunity to compile evidence that can help substantiate their claim or defense. In addition, discovery allows the plaintiff and defendant to learn what information the other side has, which ensures that there are no surprises once the case moves to the courtroom.

Types of Discovery

There are a number of different types of discovery in a personal injury case. The information obtained through this process could be provided in oral, written, or electronic form. Initially, each side is required to disclose certain pieces of information, which may include:

  • A list of witnesses who either saw the accident or have information about what happened and their contact information.
  • A list of doctors and other medical professionals who may have examined and/or treated the plaintiff.
  • A list of expert witnesses who plan to testify at trial, their qualifications, opinions, and the basis for their opinions.
  • An itemized list of damages that the plaintiff is seeking along with supporting information showing how the plaintiff’s losses were calculated.
  • The production of any additional documents, electronic information, or items that the parties plan to use to support their arguments.

In addition to required disclosures, each side may seek further information to help substantiate their arguments using various types of discovery:

  • Interrogatories: Interrogatories are a series of written questions that the other party must answer fully and to the best of their knowledge under oath. Interrogatories are frequently used to help clarify important things about the case, such as details about the accident, information about eyewitnesses and expert witnesses that might testify, medical questions, and insurance coverage information.
  • Document Requests: Either party may request the production of certain documents that were not provided during the initial disclosure.
  • Request for Admissions: One party request that the other party admit or deny an allegation or series of allegations under oath.
  • Depositions: A deposition is a recorded session in which one of the parties to a case or a witness answers a series of questions under oath. Depositions can be conducted in-person or remotely. These days, many of them are done remotely because of Covid.
  • Subpoenas: A subpoena is a request for documents and/or information from a third party that might be relevant to the case.

How Long Does Discovery Take?

The timeline for the discovery process is different for each case and depends on a number of specific factors. Sometimes, it only takes a few weeks if the case is fairly straightforward and both sides are forthcoming with requested information. In other instances, however, discovery could take several months if the case is more complicated and/or one of the parties is dragging their feet.

The Benefits of Working with an Experienced Attorney during Discovery

Discovery is a critical phase in the litigation process and having a skilled and knowledgeable attorney by your side will help ensure that you get the most out of this process. Your attorney will know what types of discovery are most useful based on the specifics of your case, and they will be able to use this phase of litigation to build the strongest possible claim.

Finally, it is important to point out that, even if a lawsuit is filed and the parties go through the discovery phase, this does not necessarily mean that the case will end up seeing the inside of a courtroom. In fact, in many cases, just the credible threat that a trial is imminent is often enough to bring the other side to the table. This is where an attorney with strong negotiation skills will pay big dividends.

Suffered a Personal Injury in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered an injury in Alabama because of another party’s negligence, Hedge Copeland is ready to go to work for you. Message us online or call our office today at (251) 432-8844 to schedule a free consultation and case assessment.