In a court case, the pre-trial stage typically includes a vital step known as “discovery” in which both parties collect and share information regarding the case before going to trial. This is to ensure the trial proceeds smoothly, with each side having the information needed to present its case.
Though it can be an expensive and laborious affair, lawsuit discovery is essential to building a strong case for yourself while getting the chance to assess how it fares against the opponent’s case. The only requirement is that information requested for must not be ‘privileged’ or protected.
In California, discovery law is governed by the Civil Discovery Act of 1986 through sections 2016 to 2036.
Lawsuit discovery is categorized into two broad categories:
- Formal Discovery – this method can be used even after a case has been filed by employing a variety of ‘tools’ such as the following:
- Interrogatories – these are written questions the other party must respond to in writing and under oath. The responses are normally used in the trial.
- Depositions – these are oral, in-person interrogations where one party asks the questions that the other side has to answer under oath. You can even bring in third-parties like expert witnesses to depose before the court.
- Requests for Production (RPF): a crucial tool in getting documents pertaining to your case, it is a broad term and frequently includes electronic documents as well. It would therefore be wise to request the exact documents you need from the other party, so this does not become an excuse for the other party to refrain from furnishing relevant documents on the pretext that your request was too broad.
- Requests for Admissions (RFA): through this tool one party asks the other to admit or deny a certain statement/document so as to maintain the focus of the case on the actual issue at hand.
- Subpoenas and requests for Statements of Damages
- Informal Discovery – this kind of discovery process can be initiated before and after a lawsuit has been filed. Investigation is done by working on your own with a private investigator or even government agencies (for low-cost information).
This process customarily includes conducting interviews with witnesses, gathering documents from third-party sources (public agencies, doctors, etc.), taking photographs of relevant objects or places, investigating the opponent’s insurance coverage, etc.
It is important to note that discovery rules are pretty stringent, and may involve sanctions if either party disregards any of those rules. You can, of course, file a motion with the Court if the other party breaks a rule. However, any motion made in bad faith by either party will invoke disciplinary actions by the Court.
It is therefore essential that you understand discovery rules thoroughly before resorting to such procedures, and adhere to them once you do initiate discovery proceedings. The process, however, is complex and needs expert knowledge and guidance to proceed in the best possible manner. Hiring a lawyer who understands the right legal strategies would immensely help in building a strong case for yourself.
The Alexander Law Group, LLP has years of experience in lawsuits and the discovery process. If you or a family member has been injured by the negligent acts of another, call us at 888-777-1776, or contact us online, for a free and confidential consultation.