When you get injured because of another driver's carelessness, you may need to file a lawsuit to get the compensation that you need and deserve. A nice, fair settlement offer from the at-fault driver's insurance carrier could help make matters quick and easy, but often you must go through a bit more of the process to find success. Part of that process is known as "discovery", and that legal phase exists in all types of court cases, from murder cases to personal injury cases. Read on to learn more about what could be in store for you with your case, and how you could still end up settling outside of court.
The U.S. justice system has many checks and balances that ensure everyone, on both sides of the courtroom, has an equal chance to prove their case and to prevail. To help lay out an equal playing field, the preparation that occurs prior to the trial's first day can be a long, complicated and enlightening event. The discovery process is meant to allow (and to compel) each side to share information with the other side. This allows both sides to enter the courtroom having a good idea of what they will be facing from the other side. In general, there are three main areas of information-sharing during the discovery process.
1. Document production: In a personal injury case, the documentation requested and shared can include witness statements, photographs, computer files, videos, accident reports, medical records and more. Any "hard" evidence pertaining to the case must be revealed and shared ahead of the trial and the requests and the fulfilling of these requests often serve to delay the beginning of trials seemingly endlessly.
2. Interrogatories: This type of discovery involves a series of question and answer documents passed back and forth among the two sides. Your attorney will assist you in completing these in a timely manner.
3. The Deposition: This series of meetings is undoubtedly the most important (and game-changing) of all discovery procedures. All parties, including you and the other driver and any witnesses, will be subpoenaed to appear and answer questions about the accident under oath. Anything said or demonstrated at the deposition has the potential to be used in the actual trial.
The Benefit of the Deposition: For your part, you could end up being the recipient of an offer to settle during or after these meetings. The other side will know what they will be facing in court, and may wish to dispense with the time and expense of taking the case to trial. Since most personal injury cases do settle outside of court, you should pay very close attention to this phase of the process for a fair and complete settlement offer.