Discovery is just that – it is an opportunity for both plaintiff’s attorney and defendant’s attorney to learn new facts or verify known facts pertinent to the personal injury case. It is the beginning of the entire litigation process where both parties get to exchange information that sometimes can change the dynamics or the strategies of each opposing side.
Discovery begins when the defendant answers the lawsuit and serves a demand for a Bill of Particulars, medical records, reports and authorizations. As plaintiff’s attorney, I would serve a Notice of Discovery and Inspection to the defendant. Basically, this is a list of the information that I need in order to proceed with the case. While this is standard practice, you can tell quite a bit about your attorney by how thoroughly he or she handles this phase of the process.
For instance, in an automobile accident case, there is standard information a plaintiff’s attorney would require such as your doctor’s treatment notes, test results, all medical records, accident reports, witness identification, hospital records, and police reports. Your attorney should have most of this documentation before the lawsuit is filed. However, a good attorney’s job is to dig deeper, and seek out facts that further support a client’s claims. Sticking only to the basics of Discovery could lead to overlooking significant evidence. Suppose the person who hit your car and caused your injuries knew his car needed new brakes? That is something that could have an impact on your case.
The point is, your attorney should use the Discovery Phase to your very best advantage. Each case is different and Discovery should reflect that. Once Discovery has been served, attorneys on both sides do have the option of objecting to any demands for information they feel is irrelevant or unnecessary. Although I always hope for a speedy response from the opposing attorney, sometimes he or she will ask for additional time to fulfill my requests. In that case, I make sure to move things along and push the defense for a timely submission of information. The court always gets involved by issuing a preliminary conference or case scheduling order where deadlines are set for the completion of document discovery, depositions and medical examinations. In our next issue, we will discuss the single most important aspect of discovery – the deposition.