A personal injury lawsuit begins long before anyone steps foot in a courtroom, and the majority of these pre-trial preparations take place during a period known as “Discovery.”
As the name suggests, discovery is when each party is supposed to discover evidence that supports their side of the story. For the injury victim (the plaintiff), that means evidence showing the other party was negligent. For the party accused of fault, that usually means trying to prove the injury victim was at fault for their own injury or was injured in some other way.
Unlike the courtroom dramas you see on TV, you won’t see either side pulling out a surprise witness or new evidence mid-trial. During discovery, both parties must share all evidence they collect. This is to allow both parties everything they need for a fair chance to build their case. If only one party knows something, it could give them an unfair advantage.
The 4 Types of Evidence Collected in Discovery
Documents: This simply refers to evidence in the form of documents. Examples include copies of the police report filed after the accident, any pictures you took of property damage and/or injuries you sustained, your medical bills and medical history, paystubs and PTO reports from your employer detailing how much work and pay was missed, and so on.
Admission of Facts: These refer to requests from the opposing party asking you to admit to certain uncontested facts. For example, they may ask you to admit to driving the vehicle that was involved in the car crash, if there were passengers involved.
Typically, you are only going to be asked to admit things that both parties already agree are true. However, they need you to admit to them on-the-record for them to be accepted as fact. This is handled pre-trial so time does not need to be wasted during the trial first proving something that both parties already agree is true.
Interrogatories: These simply refer to questions sent to you by the opposing party’s lawyer for you to answer. Most states limit the number of interrogatories the opposing side is allowed to send; in South Carolina, they are allowed 50.
These include basic information, such as asking you to confirm your identify, your insurance coverage, name any witnesses you plan to call, and so on. In a car accident case, you may also be asked whether you were drinking before getting in the car, or whether you’ve ever been convicted for a traffic violation before.
These must also be answered under oath, and if you receive new information that changes one of your answers, you have to update your answer and resubmit it to the opposing attorney.
Depositions: This refers to your oral testimony. The at-fault party’s lawyer will question you under oath in front of a court reporter, but not a judge or jury. This is considered your official testimony, and if your claim does go to trial and you need to testify in court, any testimony given then will be compared against this testimony.
Can Anything Be Used in Discovery?
Although you are generally not allowed to withhold any information relevant to the trial, you are not required to share “privileged” information.
Privileged information includes private conversations and communication with:
- Your lawyer
- Your doctor
- Your religious advisor
- Your spouse
What if I Want to Try to Settle Out-of-Court?
When negotiations stall, many personal injury victims go to court to try to get a judge or jury to order the at-fault party to pay more money than they initially offered. But while jury verdicts often result in more compensation for victims, trials can also drag out for months or even years. That’s additional time victims need to wait to see the money they need now. That’s why many injury victims prefer to settle out-of-court when possible.
However, even if you want to avoid going to trial, this pre-trial phase is still important and necessary. In fact, what is discovered in the discovery phase could be what determines whether or not you need to go to court at all.
If the evidence collected during discovery overwhelmingly shows you are not at fault for your own injuries and someone else is, the insurance company won’t want to risk going in front of a jury and will likely agree to settle for an amount you can both agree on.
Allow Us to Collect Evidence for Your Claim
If you are struggling with an uncooperative or combative insurance company after an accident that wasn’t your fault, a lawsuit may be your only option to get compensation for your damages.
At Joye Law Firm, we know what it takes to win a personal injury claim, inside a courtroom and out of one. Contact our firm today and let us take over negotiations. Our goal is always to get our clients maximum compensation for their losses when they suffer due to someone else’s negligence.