What is the Written Discovery Phase in a Lawsuit?
Lawsuits can seem confusing, stressful, and foreign to those who have never experienced legal issues. In a civil lawsuit, there are processes that attorneys and clients go through together in order to fight for their case, one of which is called Written Discovery.
So how does a civil lawsuit work? First, someone files a complaint in which they explain the facts and reasoning behind why they’re filing the claim. This could be anything from defamation to property damage to negligence resulting in injury or death. Basically, civil law deals with any behavior that constitutes an injury to an individual or a private party. After filing the complaint, the defendant is served with a summons explaining the wrongs the opposing party is accusing them of. The defendant must then respond to the other party, filing an answer to the allegations listed in the complaint. Once the response is sent, the discovery phase of civil litigation begins.
A large majority of civil cases are able to reach a settlement agreement during the discovery phase. Why? One party usually “discovers” a fact or document that would make it nearly impossible for the other party to fight in a trial, hence why this part is named “Discovery”.
What is Written Discovery?
Caption: Allen Tittle here, Cleveland’s Medical Malpractice Lawyer. I often get questions like, “Allen, what do you do every day? On a day-to-day basis, what do you do?”
One of the big projects that my staff and my team is working on this week is responding to written discovery. Specifically, what we got here, interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Any time you file a civil lawsuit, whether it be a medical malpractice case, a nursing home neglect case, a car accident, the other side is gonna request that you answer interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Interrogatories are just a fancy word for written questions that you have to answer. So it could be things as simple as, “What injuries are you claiming you sustained as a result of medical malpractice or a car accident?”. It could be, “Could you provide prior medical treatment providers?” Or it could be, “What are your witnesses?”, things of that nature.
The other, the second half of the most common type of Written Discovery, Request for Production of Documents. Folks, you guessed it- they’re asking for you to provide them some documents, any documents you have related to the case. So oftentimes, that’s just medical records or bills. Other times it could be witness statements, it could be expert reports, any doctors that we’ve hired on your behalf, or it could be any video recording you may have of the incident at issue. If you ever have to file a lawsuit, a civil lawsuit, Written Discovery is going to be a part of that process.
If you’ve fallen victim to medical malpractice or have gotten hit by a careless, negligent driver, and you have to file a lawsuit, unfortunately, you’re going to have to go through this process. Hopefully, you have a lawyer that can answer your questions on interrogatories and requests for production of documents, but if you don’t, please give us a call, visit our website, or download one of our two free ebooks relating to medical malpractice and nursing home abuse. Take care, folks!
Four Parts of Written Discovery
To uncover relevant facts about the case, both parties are permitted to perform four processes: Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admissions, and Third Party Subpoenas.
Interrogatories are questions sent to the opposing party that must be returned in writing. These could be questions ranging from who their health care provider is, where they are employed, when the last time they visited a doctor, etc.
Requests for Production of Documents
Requests for Production of Documents is when one party requests certain relevant documents that are currently in possession of the opposing party. Usually, these documents are reviewed and copied in order to provide equal access to both sides. This is usually where medical records, insurance papers, or other relevant physical documents come into play.
Requests for Admissions
Requests for Admissions involves one party asking the opposing to admit, deny, or prove the validity of certain facts or documents. This portion of the discovery saves time during the trial and allows the party to trust the facts or documents in question.
Third Party Subpoenas
Third Party Subpoenas involve the first two processes, interrogatories and requests for production of documents, but with those not involved in the actual lawsuit. Parties may request third-party subpoenas from individuals or organizations in which they suspect to find relevant information.
If you have further questions about Written Discovery or any part of civil litigation, feel free to give us a call at (216) 308-1522 or fill out the online contact form for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.