- What is “Discovery” and Why Is It Crucial to Winning Personal Injury Cases?
What is “Discovery” and Why Is It Crucial to Winning Personal Injury Cases?
For many people, the word Discovery may call to mind a pioneering NASA space shuttle or perhaps a cable TV channel known for their annual, ratings-grabbing Shark Week. But for the attorneys here at Mike Morse Law Firm, it’s something far more important. In legal terms, discovery is a clearly defined process that helps us make the personal injury cases we’re litigating bulletproof before we go to trial.
Essentially, discovery is a way to gather critical evidence that we’ll eventually use either to negotiate a legal settlement or to prove to a judge and jury that our clients’ injuries were caused by a negligent person, company, or organization, thus demonstrating our clients deserve significant compensation for their injuries and suffering.
Through the discovery process, we work to obtain several different kinds of information – answers to key questions posed in interrogatories; detailed statements from plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses gathered through depositions; and vital admissions concerning the accuracy and authenticity of various facts and documents related to the accident. To help you better understand discovery, let’s discuss each of these categories a little more closely.
Interrogatories Are an Effective Way to Question Defendants Before Trial
Michigan law lets us send an interrogatory document containing up to 20 written questions to the opposing side before trial. (Federal rules permit 25 questions, or sometimes more if the judge agrees to a higher number.) Upon receipt of our questions, the defendants must provide their responses within a time limit set by the court, which allows us to assemble important information. This also allows us to gain a clearer picture of how the defendant’s attorneys will frame their defense if we must ultimately go to trial. Carefully crafted interrogatories help us look for holes in a defendant’s arguments ahead of time and provide us with useful details to better prepare a winning case on behalf of our clients.
Depositions are Sworn Testimony Recorded Before Trial
When witnesses are questioned in person under oath, this is called a deposition. This pre-trial testimony can reveal many details that help build our personal injury cases. For instance, we can inquire about drivers’ actions before accidents took place. Had they been drinking or using any drugs (even prescription medications)? Were they fleeing a crime scene? Had they been involved in any other traffic incidents prior to the crash? o they have a history of bad driving or perhaps criminal behavior? Responses to these types of questions can open further lines of inquiry which may be extremely useful in proving a defendant’s responsibility for our clients’ injuries.
While depositions permit us to gather pre-trial information, this information may not be admissible in court unless it’s shown that sworn trial testimony contradicts what a defendant previously stated in the deposition. (This could be helpful in proving a defendant is committing perjury, which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison in Michigan.) Additionally, depositions can sometimes be admitted into court proceedings when a witness is unable to attend a trial if, for example, they have died, are terminally ill, or are unavailable to testify in person for some other compelling reason.
Admissions Provide Confirmationof Facts and Authenticity of Documents
By making a request for admission, we are asking defendants in a personal injury case to admit (or possibly to deny) a statement of fact about the incident, or sometimes verify the authenticity of a relevant document — all while under oath. According to the State Bar of Michigan, requests for admission must be made no later than 28 days before the designated deadline for completion of discovery (which is set by the court) to permit sufficient time for the person being questioned to respond.
Can the Opposing Side Use the Discovery Process?
Absolutely. You should always expect attorneys working for the other side to dig into your personal circumstances, your driving history, your social media postings, your medical records, or other factors they can use to paint a picture of you as someone who contributed to your own accident. So, always be careful what you say to others or post online about your health, your lifestyle, or anything else that could possibly be used against you in court. When you call us to take on your case, we’ll give you more specific advice on how to behave while litigation is underway.
What Else Should I Know About the Discovery Process?
As you’ve probably gathered, the discovery process is complex, the regulations surrounding it can be complicated, and there’s a strict time frame for responses to discovery to be submitted. Furthermore, items garnered through discovery are shared with the opposing side, which can add another challenging aspect to the process. In fact, after new state procedures concerning discovery took effect in 2020, the State Bar of Michigan was compelled to publish a comprehensive 105-page guidebook to discovery rules.What’s more, if anyone involved in a case refuses to comply with discovery (for instance failing to attend a scheduled deposition, disregarding an interrogatory, or choosing to ignore a subpoena), they can be charged with contempt of court and a bench warrant may then be issued for their arrest.
The last thing to know about discovery is that we’ll be there to help you through the process – whether you’re being asked to testify under oath in a deposition, verify that a document is genuine, or even play “20 questions” with a clever opposing attorney via a written interrogatory. To get us on your side instantly, just pick up the phone and dial 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). When you do, you’ll discover why our rating on Google is a solid 4.8 out of 5 – with more than 3,100 reviews already posted! Phone shy? Then just click here to get in touch with us online!