What is the “Discovery” Portion of a Lawsuit?

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Regardless of the type of civil suit filed, the court will usually issue a scheduling order that includes a time frame during which “discovery” must be completed. What is “discovery?” In legal terms, discovery refers to the process of uncovering relevant information and facts about the various claims and defenses at play in a case. Discovery allows the legal teams from both sides to prepare adequately for the trial. There are several types of discovery:

Written Discovery

There are three types of evidence that fall into the category of written discovery: Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions. Interrogatories are written questionnaires that must be answered, Requests for Production of Documents require parties to produce specific documents, and Requests for Admissions are made so that a party will admit the truthfulness of a statement so it doesn’t have to be proved in court.

Oral Discovery

Oral discovery is typically conducted in the form of depositions, or recorded question-and-answer format testimony that can be used as evidence in court. This is similar to giving witness at a trial, but there is no judge present for the deposition.

Physical and Mental Examinations

Sometimes the physical or mental state of a party comes into question. In such cases, the opposing party can request that a physical or mental examination be conducted to examine the health status of the person. In these instances, an independent medical examiner will prepare a detailed report of his or her findings regarding a person’s mental or physical state.

The above are all forms of formal discovery techniques. There are also types of discovery that fall into the informal category. These include things such as photographs of damaged goods, properties, or the site of an accident; documents from third-party sources that corroborate claims; informal interviews; and investigating your opponent.

A skilled legal team will have the resources and know-how to take advantage of the discovery period and learn as much as possible about the upcoming trial and the opponent in order to help you make a strong case. While a discovery period can be long and feel tedious, trust that it is an important part of the legal process.  

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