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A Brief Tutorial on the Discovery Process from a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer

This entry was posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Posted in News & Articles | Posted by:

injured man meeting lawyerHow does discovery work?

Once your lawsuit has been filed and the defendant has filed an answer, the next step in your case is to complete the discovery process.  In discovery, the Plaintiff and the Defendant will ask for and exchange documents and information that each side believes will be helpful in proving their side of the case.  You are obligated to answer all questions asked and provide all documents requested that do not conflict with the attorney-client privilege or another valid legal objection.  Your San Diego personal injury lawyer will help you by determining what those privileges are and objecting to requests in accordance with the local rules of procedure.  

What is your role in the discovery process?

Hopefully, at this point, you have already provided the attorney with all the documents and information that you believe would help or harm your case.  If you think of something you have not yet provided, tell your attorney and provide it.  What will happen next is that the Defendant will send your attorney some documents known as “written discovery”: This typically consists of three documents: 1. Interrogatories; 2. Requests for Production and 3. Requests for Admission.

In the interrogatories, the Defendant’s attorney will ask you to answer a series of questions about your case.  For your part of this, you should fill out a response to each question as thoroughly and as truthfully as possible.  Sometimes there will be questions you do not want to answer.  Answer them anyway.  Your attorney will use your answers to create responses to the interrogatories, and he will also object to some of the questions and keep those answers private to the extent that the law allows him to do so.  You can review the responses before your attorney submits them to the other party, and any questions or concerns you have about the information you have provided can be addressed at that time.

In the requests for production, the Defendant’s attorney will be asking for documents that are relevant to your case.  Many of those documents will be those that you have already provided, but there may be some you have not thought of.  If you do not have anything that is relevant to a request, you are not required to produce documents that do not exist.  Try to gather any documents that you have that are responsive to the requests, and the attorney will explain which will be produced and which might be considered privileged or objectionable for some other reason.  

In the requests for admission, the Defendant’s attorney will ask you to admit a series of facts that are relevant to the case.  An example might be: “Admit that the accident occurred on 9:00 p.m. on October 3, 2016.”  Sometimes the sentence is true, and you will admit that unless your attorney has an objection to that request.  Sometimes the sentence is not true, and you will deny it.

Remember that your attorney is probably not going to produce all of the answers and documents that you provide to the Defendant, so you do not have to hold back when you are giving your answers to the attorney.  In addition, certain personal information that you do not wish to share, like your social security number, can be redacted by the attorney for your security.

You may also be helping your attorney to prepare the same types of written discovery documents to deliver to the Defendant’s attorney.  In this instance, you can help move the matter forward by thinking of questions or documents that you think might be relevant to your case, and remembering facts that might help your attorney in forming the Request for Admission.

What is a deposition, and how does it work?

A deposition is an in-person form of discovery that normally occurs after the written discovery has been completed.  In a deposition, you are asked to give sworn testimony that can be used for or against you in your court case.  This testimony will be taken down by a court reporter and made into a book that becomes a written record in your case.  Don’t be nervous – your attorney will spend some time coaching you and telling you what to expect before the deposition happens.  The most important thing to remember when giving a deposition is to be truthful, because it is sworn testimony and a lie during sworn testimony can sometimes lead to criminal charges.  Your attorney will also be able to take depositions of Defendants and other witnesses to help your case.

Help your attorney as much as possible

The information obtained in discovery is often the meat and potatoes of your case, so be sure to cooperate as much as possible with your attorney’s requests and questions!

Call San Diego personal injury lawyer George Charles Heppner at (888) 503-6473 for an evaluation of your personal injury case.