When you’ve been injured in an event caused by someone else’s negligence, it’s only natural to hope that you’ll get a prompt response from their insurance company and an easy settlement that will cover your medical bills and other losses — and that can happen.
Most of the time, however, insurance companies don’t want to pay up. They look for any possible way to devalue a claim. That ultimately can force injury victims to proceed with a lawsuit, and that eventually means going through a discovery process.
What is the discovery process?
Discovery is a legal tool that basically helps both parties in a lawsuit understand the circumstances around the event in question, e.g., an accident.
In real courts, there are seldom any “Perry Mason moments.” By the time a case gets to court (if it doesn’t eventually settle), both sides should have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the other party’s position.
Discovery can be a prelude to an actual trial, but it’s also used prior to real settlement negotiations.
What are the steps in the discovery process?
The discovery process generally follows a predictable process that has four key steps:
- Interrogatories: These are written questionnaires that each side may send to the other. They’re used to gather more information about the basic facts of a case, including witness information, medical histories and descriptions of the accident.
- Requests for production: These are requests for one side to provide the other with physical documents and evidence that may be important to the case, like photos of the accident scene or medical records.
- Requests for admission: Though seldom used, these are statements about facts relevant to the case that one party asks another to either admit or deny. For example, in a car wreck, the other side may ask you to admit or deny that you were wearing your seat belt at the time of the crash.
- Depositions: These are formal question-and-answer sessions that are taken under oath and recorded. Victims, defendants and witnesses may all be subject to depositions before a case goes to trial. Transcripts or recordings of depositions can also be used in court.
No matter what the situation, a personal injury claim can be a lengthy, complicated process. Make sure that you have an experienced advocate protecting your interests along the way.