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Trial Discovery Q & A

By Elizabeth M. Sodergren, Esquire

What is Discovery?

Discovery is the heart of any lawsuit. It is the phase of the lawsuit that comes after the filing of the initial complaint and before the case is set for trial.

What Does Discovery Involve?

Discovery generally begins with written questions called Interrogatories that each party presents to the other side. These allow the attorney’s to obtain answers to questions such as who knows facts relevant to this case? Is there any written documentation that is relevant?

Requests for Production of Documents and Requests to Admit are other written tools that lawyers may use in the discovery process to prepare the case and move it toward trial.

Depositions are also a common part of the discovery process. In a discovery deposition parties answer questions posed to them by the opposing attorney in front of a court reporter. This allows the key facts of the case to surface. Often, it helps to move a case toward settlement if the depositions go well, but the primary use of he deposition is to allow the attorneys to begin to form theories about how they will approach the case at trial.

Depositions of expert witnesses such as doctors, vocational experts or economists may also be taken during this phase of a lawsuit.

Discovery can also involve the filing of various motions which seek to aid the process of finding the facts and evidence prior to trial. Motions are requests by the attorneys for a judge to order that one or more of the parties do something relevant to the lawsuit.

What is the Purpose of Discovery?

Discovery helps the parties and their attorneys get a better understanding of the facts that surround the case. It gives each side the opportunity to show the strengths of their cases. This can often help ease the parties toward a negotiated settlement at the same time that it helps the attorneys prepare the case for trial.

How Long Does Discovery Last?

Every lawsuit is different, but, generally, discovery takes 6-12 months. Ask one of our attorneys about the specifics of your case to get a better idea. Often, the attorneys themselves will not know until the process of discovery proceeds. There are many variables that can affect the timing.

Will I Be Expected to Do Anything During This Process?

Yes, your input into your case is crucial. Make sure you contact the file assistant on your case regarding any new healthcare providers, difficulties you are having with pain, working or performing household tasks or any changes in your physical condition. We love to receive periodic emails from you letting us know how you are doing. This helps us to better serve you.

You can also expect to be asked to answer written discovery questions, to review and sign those with one of our attorneys and to attend a discovery deposition. We will notify you in advance of these things, and we will be available to answer any questions you have as the case proceeds.