When most people think of personal injury trials, they typically picture the defendant and plaintiff standing in court before a judge. However, there is an extremely important step of the trial process that happens before anyone sets foot in a courtroom. This step is known as the “Discovery Phase.”
In this article, the team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. goes over what the discovery phase is, what you can expect during this process, and how it can affect your case. Here’s what you need to know:
What Is the Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase is a part of the pre-trial preparation stage in which each party is supposed to discover evidence that supports their side of the case. For the plaintiff, this means finding evidence that shows the defendant was negligent. For the defendant, this means finding evidence to prove that the plaintiff had a part in their injury or was injured in another way that had nothing to do with the accident.
Unlike dramatized movie trials, neither party will be able to surprise a witness or either the plaintiff or defendant with new evidence mid-trial. The discovery process ensures that both parties share the evidence they collect in advance. This is to allow both parties to prepare everything they need for a fair chance at arguing their case. If only one party knows something, it creates an unfair advantage.
What Type of Evidence Is Collected During the Discovery Phase?
There are four types of evidence collected during the discovery phase of a trial. They are:
Documentation of the accident, injuries, damage caused by the accident to personal property, and medical records help create a clear picture of what happened and the consequences of it. Important documents that need to be gathered to help support your claim include:
- The police report of the accident
- Pictures of the accident site and damage to personal property, such as a car
- Pictures of any injuries
- Medical bills and medical history
- Pay stubs and PTO reports from your employer to show how much work or pay was missed
Admission of Facts
An admission of facts refers to requests from the defendant in which they ask you to admit certain uncontested facts. For example, if you had passengers in the car, the defendant may ask you to admit that you were the one driving the vehicle.
These admission of facts should be statements that both parties have already admitted or agreed to be true. These statements need to be admitted on the record to be considered facts during the trial. This will be handled during the pre-trial process to ensure that no time is wasted during the trial.
However, if the defendant or their insurance company tries to get you to admit to something that neither of you has agreed on, do not say anything and contact your lawyer.
Interrogatories are questions sent to you by the opposing party’s lawyer. Each state has laws on how many interrogatories the opposing side is allowed to send you. Texas State law only permits opposing parties to send 25 interrogatories.
Interrogatories can ask about basic information such as but not limited to the following:
- To confirm your identity
- Your insurance information
- Name of any witnesses you plan to call on
- Whether you were drinking before getting in the car
- Whether you have been convicted of a traffic violation
All of these must be answered under oath. If there is any new information that changes one of your answers, you must answer again and resubmit to the opposing attorney.
A deposition is an oral testimony about the accident. The defendant’s lawyer will question you under oath in front of a court reporter but not a judge or a jury. This is considered your official testimony about the case. If your claim does go to trial and you need to testify in court, that testimony will be compared against your deposition.
Is Anything Fair Game During the Discovery Process?
While both the defendant and the plaintiff are not allowed to withhold information from each other that is relevant to the trial, there are some conversations that are allowed to be confidential. These confidential conversations are protected if they happened between:
- You and your lawyer
- You and your doctor
- You and your religious advisor
- You and your spouse
Invest in Representation You Can Trust
The team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. understands how stressful the pre-trial investigations and preparations can be before your trial. With the accident still fresh in your mind, the unknown can be daunting. This is why the team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. works so hard to ensure that our clients are comfortable as they go through the legal process to claim the compensation they deserve. Our team of experienced attorneys will be with you every step of the way, ensuring that your voice is heard and your rights are protected. Contact us today for more information on our services or to schedule your free no-obligation consultation.