Television and movie depictions of trials often show high-drama moments where one side suddenly presents new evidence, shocking the courtroom. In real life, this almost never happens, especially civil trials such as personal injury lawsuits. The reason for this is the requirement that both sides see all the evidence in advance through the process of discovery.
The term discovery refers to the fact-finding process that takes place before the trial. There are three basic types of discovery: written discovery, production of documents and depositions.
Written discovery takes the form of interrogatories or requests for admission. Essentially, these consist of letters one side sends to the other, asking questions. For example, if you have filed suit against a restaurant where you were injured after slipping on a spill, the restaurant’s attorneys may send you an interrogatory asking you a series of questions it wants you to answer. It’s important to get help from an attorney before you answer these questions, as some of them may be worded in a confusing way, or even a deliberately confusing way.
In the example above, the defendant will likely demand that you produce documentation of your injury. You may be asked to show medical reports and bills related to your injury. Often, documentation includes emails, texts or other communication.
Depositions are sworn statements. They often take the form of an interview, where the other side’s attorneys ask you questions about your case. In more complex cases, depositions can take hours and can be quite exhausting. It is crucial that you have your lawyer with you at your deposition.
Preparing for trial can be very tiring, frustrating and sometimes frightening. It is important to have help from a professional who is watching out for your interests and can advise you on the strategies and procedures that will help you and your case.