What Happens During the Discovery Stage of a Personal Injury Trial?

March 29, 2021

After a claim is filed for a personal injury lawsuit, the pre-trial phase known as “Discovery” begins.

As the name suggests, this is when both parties “discover” all the relevant details of the case. Namely, the plaintiff (the injury victim) and their lawyer will discover how the defendant (the at-fault party) describes how the accident occurred, while the defendant learns how the plaintiff describes events.

Discovery is when testimony is given, evidence compiled, and so on. Neither party can withhold evidence to surprise the other side later on. Both parties need all available information from the start to fairly and accurately build their cases.

If the evidence revealed in Discovery against the at-fault party is overwhelming, the insurance company may not want to risk going to court and losing big, so they may agree to settle before going in front of a jury. 

You may be able to get more money in a jury verdict by going to trial, but trials can significantly drag out how long it takes to get compensation and it’s never a sure thing. If the insurance company offers to settle during the Discovery stage, make sure to discuss with your lawyer their opinion on whether the settlement offer is fair and how to proceed.

The Four Parts of Discovery in a Personal Injury Trial

There are four main types of supporting evidence in Discovery, and both parties (the plaintiffs and the defendants) can request any of these from the other.

Depositions: Depositions are your oral testimony. The at-fault party’s lawyer will question you under oath (although this is still pre-trial and will typically take place in the attorney’s office rather than in court). This is your official “on-the-record” testimony, and your answers will be recorded. If the case goes to trial, any additional testimony will be compared to this to make sure no details change.

Any witnesses to the accident will likely also be deposed, meaning questioned under oath. 

Interrogatories: These are simply questions that the opposing lawyer can send you and require you to answer. In Louisiana, you are limited to 35 interrogatories (although if you have more questions, you can request the permission of the court to send more interrogatories).

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 other attorney. 

Requests for Admission of Facts: Similar to interrogatories, “admissions” are requests from the opposing party you have to answer, but you don’t have to go into as much detail. You are only required to say yes or no, essentially “admitting” or “denying” the statement.

This is to make it easier to admit certain uncontested statements as fact in the trial without needing to waste any time proving them first. For example, you might be asked to admit you were driving the vehicle, if there was more than one person in the car at the time of the crash.

Requests for Production of Documents: These are copies of any and all documents and evidence you have supporting your claim, including the police report, your medical history (showing your injuries weren’t a pre-existing condition), medical bills (showing you received treatment and how much it cost), documents from your employer showing how much time at work you missed and how much pay you missed out on because of it, photographs of your injuries and damaged property, and so on. 

Can Anything Be Used in Discovery?

You are not required to shared “privileged” information, meaning doctor-patient confidentiality and attorney-client confidentiality is upheld. You can also refuse to share private conversations or communications between you and your spouse, or between you and a religious advisor. 

Get an Experienced Attorney to Handle Your Case

Are you struggling with an uncooperative insurance company after an accident, and considering filing a lawsuit to finally get the compensation you need to get by?

At Dudley DeBosier, we know the personal injury field inside and out, and that includes knowing the right questions to ask to gather all the evidence we need to prove you weren’t at fault for your own accident.

Contact our Louisiana personal injury lawyers today for a free initial consultation, and allow us to go over the details of your case with you to see if you have a solid claim!