When you file a personal injury lawsuit, there are several stages before your case goes to trial. During the discovery phase of a personal injury case, each party requests information from the other side. Then, they use the information and evidence to prepare their case for trial.
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What Types of Discovery Are Used in Personal Injury Cases?
Each personal injury claim is unique. The information and evidence you request during the discovery process depend upon the case. Generally, discovery is an essential element of a personal injury lawsuit.
You could learn that the other party’s evidence is insufficient to prove their liability allegations. On the other hand, you could learn your case has problems you were unaware of before obtaining evidence from the other party. The plaintiff has the burden of proving fault and liability in a personal injury case.
As the parties of a civil lawsuit learn about the weaknesses and strengths of each other’s case, they formulate a trial strategy. They may also decide that it is in their best interest to negotiate a settlement agreement before trial.
Pre-trial discovery can be the key to resolving a case without the risk of letting a jury decide the outcome of your personal injury claim.
Examples of Discovery Requests in a Personal Injury Case
The Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide the rules for discovery in civil cases. Failing to respond to discovery requests could result in sanctions by the court.
Common types of discovery requests used in personal injury cases include:
Interrogatories are written questions presented to the other party. The party must answer the questions under oath. Interrogatories in a personal injury case might include questions about:
- The cause of the accident or injury
- Insurance coverage and information
- Whether the person has been involved in a prior accident or sustained prior injuries
- A list of all lawsuits filed against or by the person
- Description of the person’s injuries and damages
- A list of all medical providers and a description of the medical treatment received from each provider
- A list of employers and their contact information
- Description of the physical evidence to be submitted at trial
- A list of witnesses, including expert witnesses
- Information regarding financial losses, including lost income, medical bills, and out-of-pocket expenses
Interrogatories can be very lengthy. It can be time-consuming to respond to interrogatories, so the parties may request additional time to submit the responses. Generally, the attorney’s notes and work product are not subject to discovery requests.
Request for Production of Documents
The party may also submit a request for production of documents with the interrogatories. The request includes all documents referred to or relied upon when answering the interrogatories.
Examples of documents the parties might request include:
- Medical records, statements, and photographs of injuries
- Opinions from expert witnesses
- Insurance policies
- Cell phone records
- Records related to income and lost time from work
- Videos and photographs of the accident scene
The documents should be specific to the case. Your attorney may object to a request if the document requested is not relevant to the allegations being heard by the court.
Request for Admissions
Requests for admissions require the party to admit or deny each statement of “fact” listed in the discovery request. The party may also state that they do not have sufficient information to admit or deny the statement. As with all other discovery requests, the party responds to a request for admissions under oath.
A deposition is another form of discovery used in personal injury lawsuits. A party is placed under oath by a court reporter. The attorney asks questions, and the party being deposed answers the questions under oath.
In a personal injury case, parties that might be deposed include:
- The parties to the lawsuit
- Expert witnesses
- Medical providers
- Accident reconstructionists
The party being deposed is usually provided a subpoena requiring them to appear and provide testimony at the deposition. The attorney for both parties, both parties, and the person being deposed may be present. A court report records and transcribes the deposition.
What Happens If a Party Refuses to Comply with a Discovery Request?
If a party refuses to reply to a discovery request, the party making the request may petition the court to compel the party to reply. The party refusing to comply may make legal arguments why they should not be required to comply with the discovery request. The judge decides the matter.
For example, if a party refuses to comply with a subpoena for a deposition, the court could issue a Rule to Show Cause. The party would need to appear in court to explain why they should not be compelled to provide a deposition. The judge could issue fines or put the person in jail if they fail to comply with a court order.
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