What is Discovery

Legal terms can be confusing. When a lawsuit is started it is very stressful time for those involved. So when you don’t understand a lot of terms that are being thrown around during a lawsuit, it only adds to that anxiety. One of the most important elements in any lawsuit is discovery. Discovery, in its most basic sense, is the process in a lawsuit in which the parties are required to reveal documents, witnesses, and other related materials that they intend on using at trial. This is very beneficial for everyone in order to avoid any surprises at trial. However, it’s important for the attorney and their client to communicate with each other in order to make the most out of discovery. This article will focus on the types of discovery available and how they help.

The most common form of discovery is called interrogatories. Interrogatories are just a fancy word for written questions that the other party must answer. This is an effective and cost efficient way to have the other party answer questions relating to the lawsuit and who they intend of using for witnesses and what their witnesses know about the case and the answers are under oath.

If interrogatories aren’t enough, a more formal way to get information from the other party or witnesses is in the form of a deposition. A deposition is a formal proceeding where an attorney requires the other party or witness to be available for a meeting in which he/she can ask the person a series of questions under oath. Depositions are very effective as they provide the attorney a lot of flexibility and the ability to take in the nonverbal communication as the person answers the questions.

Another common form of discovery is request for production of documents. This is another very effective way to get information from the other side. In most lawsuits, documents play an enormous role in deciding a case. In order to avoid surprises, sending out a request for production of documents allows you the ability to review all the documents from the other side that help or hurt their case. These may be in the form of contracts, pictures, and other similar items.

Most discovery requests must be completed in 30 days from receipt. If a party refuses to answer a discovery demand, there are significant repercussions. These repercussions mostly are in the form of fines to the other side. However, certain discovery that is not timely answered will be deemed admitted and could destroy the non-answering parties case. While the other side may object to certain types of discovery, they must a legal reason for doing so. Simply because it harms their case is not a reason to object.

In summary, proper discovery is essential in almost every case. It allows both parties the ability see the strengths and weaknesses of their case. This often leads to a resolution via settlement or if settlement is not possible, then a thorough understanding of the case prior to trial.

Please send any request for topic suggestions to rene@breenandperson.com. Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know. Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.