What is Discovery?
Prior to filing a suit in a personal injury case, the involved parties most likely will not have all of the facts and information necessary to either prosecute their case or to successfully defend the case. Discovery is the phase of the litigation process where the involved parties will gather information about the case in the form of written requests and oral depositions.
For instance, Plaintiff lawyers will often file along with their Complaints, certain Interrogatories, which are written requests for the Defendant to answer specific inquiries on their knowledge of the case, including any witnesses that they may call at trial. Witnesses may also be called upon in discovery to give oral testimony or depositions under oath.
The discovery phase is intended to aide parties in finding the facts, evidence, and information necessary to efficiently litigate the case, assess the strength of claims and defenses, determine strategies for trial, and assess the value of the damages portion of personal injury cases. It is not uncommon that once the discovery phase has ended, parties come to a resolution of the case prior to trial, based on those strengths and weaknesses revealed during discovery. In Georgia, the discovery process is anticipated to last for 6 months, although it is very common that parties will request to extend the discovery period based on any complexities involved in the personal injury case.
Interrogatories are written request for a party to a personal injury case to provide information that may be relevant to the central issues of the case. The party who receives the Interrogatories has a duty to respond or may face sanctions from the Judge. Here are some important things to know about interrogatories in a Georgia personal injury case.
- The party who is sending the Interrogatories may request no more than 50 Interrogatories to be responded to.
- Parties who fail to respond may be sanctioned for their failure to respond, including the dismissal of their lawsuit or the striking of the Answer to the Complaint.
- Objections can and should be made when responding to Interrogatories. Any objections based on any legal privileges should be raised at the time of response to the Interrogatory.
- Interrogatory responses must be verified, meaning the party responding should provide a notarized signature along with their responses.
A deposition is an oral examination under oath of a witness in a personal injury case. Deposition testimony is a powerful discovery tool that is often used to get all of the information that a witness or a party may testify to at a trial. Deposition testimony can often lead to additional evidence that may be relevant to prove an element or to defend an element of a personal injury case. Here are some important things to know about Depositions in a Georgia personal injury case.
- Deposition testimony is sworn, testimony
- Depositions can be videotaped
- Deposition testimony can be used against a witness at trial
- Objections can and should be raised during deposition testimony
- Trial Depositions can be taken for witnesses who are difficult to procure for trial or who may be be unavailable for trial
Request for Admissions
Requests for Admissions are another useful discovery tool used to streamline the fact finding process. Most often propounded by Plaintiff's, Requests for Admissions are requests from one party to the other to admit certain basic and/or critical facts about a personal injury case that may be undisputed. Here are some important things to know about Requests for Admission in a Georgia personal injury case.
- A Request for Admission is deemed admitted if the responding party does not respond within 30 days of receipt of the request.
- Request for Admissions can generally be propounded at any time throughout the course of litigation, even after discovery has closed.
Request for Production of Documents
Requests for Production of Documents are requests for a party to provide certain documents that are useful and relevant to prove or disprove critical elements of the case. Most Requests for Production of Documents center on items like: reports, medical records, billing statements, expert reports, photographs, videos, witness statements, criminal or driving records, employment records, wage loss records to prove lost wages, and other tangible documents or items. Here are some important things to know about Requests for Production of Documents in Georgia.
- A party failing to produce requested documents that are not privileged may face sanctions from the Judge.
- Parties can request protective orders for documents that may contain privilege or that are shielded from discovery by law.
- The term “documents” does not merely relate to documents, but can also relate to many forms of tangible evidence.
Requests for Non-Party Production of Documents
Similar to Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Non-Party Production of Documents are requests to provide certain documents that are useful and relevant to prove or disprove critical elements of the case. The major distinction is that requests for the non-party production of documents are generally directed towards non-parties to the case. For instance, a subpoena or request for non-party production of documents may be directed towards a treating physician or to an employer for a party in the case. Here are some things to know about request for non-party production of documents:
- The person or business receiving the request must make a good faith effort to comply with the request
- The responding person or business may object, usually based on a provision of law that keeps them from revealing privileged or confidential information
- If a party to the lawsuit has requested receipt of such non-party documents, the party who has requested the non-party documents and received them, must provide them in discovery to the opposing party(ies).
The discovery process is an important phase of the litigation process. Discovery is helpful to bolster a Plaintiff's case and can even help to discovery weaknesses. The rules of discovery are often complex and require the exercise of great skill and judgment by an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of someone else, you need a skilled personal injury lawyer to help you. Lawson Law is a personal injury law firm located in Gwinnett County. We are happy to give you a free consultation and let you know how we can help you.