What is the “Discovery Process” in Personal Injury Claims?
If your injury claim goes to trial, it must follow the rules and procedures of the court. One of these procedures is called the discovery process. This process involves both parties sharing information and identifying witnesses and other evidence. It will play a significant role in determining the strength of your case and the compensation you ultimately receive.
Throughout the discovery process, both parties in a lawsuit uncover relevant evidence and testimony before the trial. It allows both sides to anticipate the opponent’s approach and build a case to prove or refute existing evidence.
For example, part of the defendant’s defense may include the assertion that you were texting while driving and contributed to the accident. During discovery, your legal team receives evidence related to the claim, such as witness statements or phone records. This helps your lawyers prepare rebuttal evidence, such as proof that the witness is unreliable or video showing you didn’t have your phone in hand when the accident occurred.
The more evidence exchanged during discovery, the better your legal team can prepare and win you a large settlement.
Discovery involves five main steps to uncover all the information before trial. These include:
Interrogatories are written questions that one party sends to another. They can include fact-finding questions involving:
- Names and contact details of witnesses
- Insurance documentation related to the accident
- Description of the injuries sustained
- Medical history of the injured party
Formal requests for production are sent to the other party’s attorney to obtain relevant documentation. They can also include a request to visit a property for inspection. These documents can include:
- Employment records showing time off from work
- Police reports detailing the accident
- Identification of all expert witnesses who may testify at trial
- Copies of medical records, bills, and insurance policies
- Photos, videos, and electronic recordings of the accident
- Repair estimates and receipts
One party sends a list of written statements to the other party to admit, deny, or object to them. Under Missouri court rules, a party can’t send more than 25 requests for admission.
For instance, the request for admission may state that the driver could have avoided hitting your car if they had driven at a lower speed. The court accepts all admissions without any objections and denials as facts.
Upon request by the other party, a court can order the injured victim to undergo physical and mental exams to assess their health. They can also ask for the report of the findings, including diagnoses, test results, and conclusions about the injured victim’s physical condition.
A deposition is a recorded exchange of questions and answers between the parties. The person in the deposition, or the deponent, must answer questions under oath. A court reporter can type the questions and answers, or your lawyers may use a camera to record the session.
A scheduling order from the judge sets deadlines for the discovery phase. However, Missouri court rules set limitations for each part of discovery:
- Interrogatories: The other party is to respond to interrogatories within 30 days of service.
- Request for Production: A response is required to provide relevant documents within 30 days of the service request
- Request for Admission: The party must admit, deny, or object to a request for admission within 30 days of the defendant’s entry of appearance.
- Depositions: A deposition session must generally last no more than 7 hours in 1 day.
The discovery process requires close involvement with your legal team since its outcome affects your chances of a fair settlement and prepares you for trial. As the plaintiff, you’ll likely be involved in the following aspects of the discovery process:
- Provide all accident-related information to your attorney upon hire
- Collect and turn over evidence to support your claim (receipts, bills, journal entries, photos, etc.)
- Respond to the defendant’s interrogatories with legal representation
- Appear or sit for a recorded deposition
- Attend hearings for the case
- Undergo required medical or psychological examinations
The entire discovery phase can take weeks, months, or years, depending on the complexity of your case. Reach out to the experienced St. Louis personal injury lawyers at Cofman Townsley for updates on your case and follow our advice closely regarding your involvement in the discovery process. Our skills and expertise during this time can help you maximize your settlement.