California personal injury law favors the resolution of cases on their merits, giving you as an injured victim a fair opportunity to gather essential facts, important documents, and other key pieces of evidence needed to present and prove your case. There are several legal devices that your personal injury lawyer will employ in order to gain such critical evidence. These legal devices are referred to as “discovery.”
Lawsuit discovery usually begins with the sending of a set of interrogatories and a demand for production or inspection to the person you are suing or its insurance carrier. Interrogatories are a set of question addressed to the person who injured you or his or her insurance company. The questions must be answered truthfully and under oath and the person answering will generally be bound by their responses. A demand for production or inspection entitles you to be provided with certain documents (demand for production) or that you and your attorney be permitted to inspect a location (demand for inspection), such as a store or other business where you were injured. It is also common to accompany interrogatories or demands for production/inspection with requests for admission, which are a set of statements that must be admitted or denied in order to narrow down the issues to be decided at trial.
Once your adversary has responded to lawsuit discovery, the next discovery device that your San Diego injury attorney will usually employ is a deposition. A deposition commands the appearance of a person or witness (including an ordinary or an expert witness) to appear and testify and have their testimony recorded. Through the use of a deposition, you can question and interrogate key witnesses and record their testimony regarding facts to which you expect they might testify at trial. This way your injury attorney can nail down their testimony and limit or avoid surprises at the time of the trial of your case.
Even if you think you have obtained all of the evidence you need by informally requesting the information prior to the filing a lawsuit, there is still a huge value in utilizing lawsuit discovery in a California personal injury case. When you obtained information informally prior to a lawsuit, you likely did not obtain the information under oath; you simply interviewed witnesses or asked a doctor or hospital for records. A person who made statements in an interview or produced documents informally may suddenly remember new facts or find new documents just before trial. What is worse, they may surprise you at trial by present new facts, documents and evidence that you have never heard of before! By utilizing lawsuit discovery, all parties to the lawsuit are forced to show you their hand. If any facts, documents, or evidence are not produced in response to your lawsuit discovery, you can request that the judge exclude such items from being presented as evidence at the trial of your personal injury case.
Finally, lawsuit discovery serves another valuable use. Responses to lawsuit discovery often lead to uncovering key pieces of information or documents that highlight the strength or weakness of your personal injury claim and facilitate a prompt resolution through a settlement. Also, your adversary may not want to produce certain documents or information that evidence wrongdoing on their part or increase their exposure, so they may be more included to enter into a settlement on terms favorable to you.