What Does the Discovery Process Actually Look Like in a Court Case?

Juliet D'cruz

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Going through a court case is stressful at any time of your life. Whether it’s work or personal, or whether you’re the defendant or the prosecutor, it helps to know what you’ll have to go through throughout the process.

So let’s take a look at one of the first steps, the discovery process. Here we’ll help you better understand your position and situation.

What Is the Discovery Process?

The discovery process, or discovery phase, is an integral part of any civil litigation. It involves exchanging information between parties to help prepare for trial. You can break down the discovery process into two distinct phases.

Document production occurs when one party requests documents from another party. Depositions occur when each side has questions they want answering during questioning. We will discuss both these processes further below.

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Document Production

When you file your complaint with the court clerk, it triggers the start of the discovery process. Both sides have 30 days after filing to request certain documents from each other. These documents include things like medical records, employment history, or bank statements.

Suppose either side fails to produce requested documents within this time frame. Then the requesting party may face sanctions. Such sanctions include paying attorney fees or costs incurred by the non-producing party.

The idea behind this phase is to provide a fair trial. That gives both parties enough time to build a case and prevent a trial by ambush, as it’s known. Yet, suppose there is no evidence produced.

The judge could rule against the plaintiff or defendant based on lack of proof. To avoid this outcome, most plaintiffs hire lawyers who specialize in discovery law. Hence, they know what documentation exists and the time passed before presenting it?

Deposition Questions

Once all the documents arrive, the next step can take place. During deposition, attorneys ask questions about what’s in the documents.

For example, suppose their emails get exchanged at work about a particular topic. Then you would likely ask about those emails during the deposition.

Witnesses who know something about the subject matter in litigation might testify. It gives everyone a chance to understand best any arguments and counterarguments presented.

A deposition aims to discredit testimony. That’s true whether it’s face-to-face or through written questions.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is another type of discovery. It forces someone to appear in person and answer questions under oath. A subpoena requires the recipient to show up at a specific location.

Further, it’ll answer questions posed by the lawyer representing the requesting party—a failure to adhere to subpoena results in fines and possible jail time.

How Do I Know When My Documents Arrive?

Suppose your opponent has filed a motion asking for more documents than first agreed. Then you should contact your lawyer immediately.

Ensure that everything’s submitted before the deadline. Otherwise, you could risk facing extra penalties.

Suppose you do not get notice until later. You must wait until the end of the discovery period. Once again, ensure that all the documents arrive before contacting your lawyer.

Any Further Questions?

Depositions are much more complex and often need clarity to those unfamiliar. So let’s take a look at some common questions asked about depositions to fill the gaps.

Can I ask Any Question About What’s in My Documents?

Yes! As long as the question does not violate the rules of evidence, then yes. Yet, keep in mind that some courts limit how much testimony’s allowed during a deposition. Thus, you should only seek answers to specific questions that relate to the issues in the lawsuit.

Do I Need to Attend My Depositions?

No. While it is important to attend every deposition, but sometimes it’s out of your control. For instance, you live far away from the location where the deposition will happen.

Or you cannot afford to travel across the country to sit through hours of questioning. Whatever the reason, you still need to answer the same questions under oath.

Yet, if you fail to respond to a request for information, this will result in sanctions against you. If you don’t want to go to court because you think you’ll lose, then you’re likely right.

But if you believe that you’ve done nothing wrong, then you shouldn’t fear going to court. After all, you already went through the process once when filing a suit. And now you’re doing so again.

So why bother attending the deposition? The simple fact is that you never know what might come up. Even though you may feel confident that there won’t be any surprises, they always seem to pop up.

That means that you need to prepare yourself mentally for anything that comes along. In other words, even if you think you know what’s coming. You should expect things to change throughout the day.

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What Is Case Litigation?

Case litigation refers to legal decisions made by courts on issues involving specific cases. These decisions are based upon the precedent set forth by previous court rulings.

In other words, if a judge has already ruled on a similar issue before, he will likely follow this ruling rather than make his own decision. There may or may not always be a clear-cut answer to your question about what happens during the discovery process.

Again, that isn’t to say every case is the same. It’s common for verdicts to change over time as new evidence and arguments come to light.

Also, judges have discretion about their decisions. Depending on who makes the best argument, they could rule one way today but another way tomorrow.

How Do You Know When Your Answers Have Counterarguments?

It depends on the type of case litigated. Some types of lawsuits involve criminal charges, while others do not.

Regardless of whether you face jail time. You must understand that everything said during a deposition gets used against you in court.

For example, suppose that you get asked at a deposition about an incident with someone else. Then, after the deposition ends, the opposing party decides to use this information against you in court.

Now imagine that you had answered in a different way. Would you like to find yourself facing extra charges? Everything you say during a deposition can also work against you in future proceedings.

Do I Need to Abide By a Settlement Agreement?

In most states, no. Some jurisdictions allow parties to enter into settlement agreements without getting court permission. For instance, if both sides agree to settle out of court, it doesn’t matter how much money’s involved. As long as everyone agrees to end the dispute, then the lawsuit ends immediately.

Further, many people assume that you cannot force settlements upon them. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Suppose you’re the defendant.

Then the chances are good that you’ll reach a settlement agreement with the person suing you. After all, settling costs nothing.

And it often saves you thousands of dollars in attorney fees. But don’t take my word for it; ask your lawyer! They know more about these matters than anyone else.

Finding the Best Law Firm

Suppose you find yourself facing an uphill battle about finding the best attorney. Then you aren’t alone. There are many resources available online which can provide you with valuable advice.

With online resources, you can get free consultation services from attorneys. Attorneys such as Heard and Smith do so at no cost whatsoever. Visit the website and fill out a short form requesting more information. Then wait for them to contact you within 24 business hours.

Local law firms are specializing in representing clients in personal injury claims. Many times these lawyers offer reduced rates. Especially those seeking representation due to financial hardship.

Yet, keep in mind that most of these companies need upfront fees ranging anywhere between $1,000-$5,000. So unless you have deep pockets, you may end up paying much more money than necessary.

Don’t Underestimate the Discovery Process

The discovery process is also known to legal experts as “the single biggest factor” when determining who will win a particular civil trial. In other words, the better prepared you are before going through the discovery phase, the greater chance you have of winning your case.

And since the discovery process involves depositions, interrogatories, or documentation requests. Make sure that you hire a competent attorney who knows what they are doing.

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