Discovery: the process of exchanging evidence.
After a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiffs' and defendants' next task is usually requesting any relevant documents and information from each other. This process is called "discovery." As its name implies, the point is to illuminate what actually happened. We want cases decided out in the open, with all the facts (or alleged facts) plain for every party to see.
Generally speaking, each side is entitled to anything and everything related to the case. This can mean not only key pieces of evidence like witness statements you might have, but details about your medical history and your version of the events. This process is mostly your lawyer's to deal with, but you'll be asked to provide some materials and answer some questions.
Your lawyer and the opposing lawyer will formally exchange what are called "requests for production" and "requests for interrogatories." We go into detail below on what those things are. You might think the process would simplified if each side was instructed by the court to merely "hand over any relevant evidence." But it's not that simple ...
Questions Answered on This Page:
- How does the discovery process work in a personal injury case?
- What does the discovery process have to do with evidence?
- How does the discover process work under Texas law?
Both sides must turn over any evidence they have.
In a "request for production," one party asks the other for specified relevant documents or items they might have. In a personal injury case, most often the plaintiff is asked to produce medical records, income statements, and anything else that might prove or disprove their claims. For example, if you're claiming that your back was hurt in an accident, it's only fair to let the other side take a peek at your x-rays.
Or, if you claim that you lost a lot of money last year because you weren't able to work after an accident, it's reasonable that the defendant would want to see proof: if you made $25,000 the year before your accident and $50,000 the year after, your lost wages claim is going to need some help in explaining why you made more money.
Your attorney should ask the defendant for whatever relevant documents or items he has. This can be as broad as asking for any emails, texts, or phone messages in his possession where he discussed the accident. Your lawyer should also try to secure information about the defendant's past bad acts, his criminal record, his driving record, and anything else that makes your case look better.
Both sides will ask each other written questions under oath
Attorneys employ a discovery tool called the "interrogatory." That's a fancy word for "question." Basically, parties are allowed to get as much relevant information out of each other as possible. In a car wreck case, your lawyer will ask the other driver what his version of events is, whether he was speeding or driving improperly at the time of the accident, or whether he'd consumed alcohol or drugs in the previous 24 hours. The answers to these questions must be sworn to in front of a notary public.
The simple rule in answering these questions is this: you don't have to be right, but you can't be dishonest. If you're asked a question and don't know the answer, it's ok. If it turns out that your answer was unintentionally wrong, that's not the end of the world. However, lying is forbidden.
Your lawyer is responsible for this process
The thing to keep in mind is that your lawyer should have plenty of experience in helping clients respond to these requests. The attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have done this countless times, often many times per week, for the last 25 years. It's a process we'll guide you through.
Other articles about personal injury cases that may be helpful: