Building a Personal Injury Case
When people picture lawyers at work, the first scene that usually comes to mind is someone standing in a courtroom in a suit interrogating a witness or making a speech to the jury. While that can a key part of many personal injury cases, it skips over much of the groundwork that leads up to that moment. Knowing what questions to ask and what arguments to make to a jury requires an attorney to spend time building a case, and that is done through the discovery process.
The Purpose of Discovery
Discovery is a uniquely Anglo-American legal institution designed to allow both parties access to all of the information that the other side has. It exists to help parties trade important documents and force them to answer questions in advance of trial so that the attorneys working on it can build their cases. This is important because it prevents surprises at trial. It also gives everyone a clearer picture of what actually happened so that the truth is more likely to come out during the case. Finally, it also encourages the parties to compromise and work towards a settlement. There is no such thing as a perfect case, so as more information comes out through discovery, parties will find weaknesses in their cases and their opponents. This will give them a sense of their chances at trial, which can prompt a settlement.
The Tools of Discovery
Although there are a variety of discovery tools, three in particular stand out as important: requests for production, interrogatories, and depositions. Requests for production are requests sent by one side to the other, asking the other to turn over documents that are relevant to the ongoing lawsuit. These sorts of requests can be used for all sorts of things. For instance, if a person was involved in an accident with a commercial truck, a request for production could be used to examine the truck’s maintenance records and look for potential maintenance issues.
Interrogatories, as the name suggests, are questions. One party’s attorney drafts a set of questions for the other side, usually designed to clarify things that the attorneys found while reviewing the produced documents. The other side is then obliged to answer the questions created by the first attorney, unless they can come up with some good reason not to, such as the information’s being protected by the attorney-client privilege.
The final category, depositions, are the most labor intensive, and also the ones most likely to impact clients directly. Depositions are interviews conducted by a party’s attorney of witnesses or other parties in the case. This is particularly important to personal injury clients because it means that they will likely end up being interviewed by the other party’s lawyer. These interviews can last for hours and are usually done as the final step in the discovery process so that the attorneys can build their case and begin trying to undercut the other side’s arguments by eliciting favorable testimony from witnesses.
Personal injury cases can be complex, but they are important for holding people responsible for the harm that they cause. If you or one of your loved ones has been injured through someone else’s carelessness, contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today.