When you are injured because of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages. Most personal injury claims are settled without filing a lawsuit or going to trial. However, there are some cases in which a personal injury lawsuit is necessary to fight for fair compensation for accident victims.
Discovery is a phase in personal injury lawsuits. The parties use discovery tools to gather information and evidence from the other party. This evidence could lead to a settlement before trial, or it could lead a party to additional evidence that could help prove fault and liability at trial.
The discovery phase is a part of all personal injury lawsuits. Discovery is used in product liability cases, slip and fall cases, motor vehicle accident claims, nursing home abuse cases, wrongful death claims, and other personal injury cases.
When Do Parties Engage in Discovery?
A personal injury lawsuit begins when a plaintiff (injured party) files a lawsuit to recover damages caused by another party. The defendant (the party who allegedly caused the injury) is served with a copy of the lawsuit.
The defendant has a specific deadline for filing a response to the allegations in the complaint. The defendant may also file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
After all initial pleadings have been filed with the court, the case enters the discovery phase. Each party may proceed to use the various discovery tools permitted by the Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern discovery in civil lawsuits.
Types of Discovery Used in Kentucky Personal Injury Cases
There are several different types of discovery methods that attorneys might use in a personal injury lawsuit.
Some of the most common types of discovery include:
Parties may submit written questions to each other to obtain evidence and information about a personal injury case. The questions are called interrogatories. Interrogatories must be answered under oath, and the questions must relate to an aspect of the case.
Depositions are oral testimony given under oath. The attorney requesting the deposition asks the person various questions about the case or questions about matters related to the case. The rules of evidence used in court are not always applicable during a deposition.
A court reporter transcribes the deposition testimony into a written document. Responses can be used in court to challenge a witness who tries to change their testimony.
An attorney may depose other parties, expert witnesses, doctors, eyewitnesses, and other individuals who might have information related to the personal injury claim.
Request to Produce
A party may send written requests to the other party for the production of documents related to the case. This discovery tool can be valuable for obtaining copies of the evidence another party intends to present at trial. As with the other discovery methods, responses to the requests to produce are under oath.
Request for Admissions
This discovery method can help define the specific facts or issues that are in dispute. Requests for admissions are written statements the other party either admits or denies. The party may also respond that they do not have sufficient knowledge to either admit or deny the statement.
A subpoena compels a party to appear for a deposition or produce documents related to the case. For example, a plaintiff may subpoena the defendant’s cell phone records to prove that the defendant was texting at the time of a crash. Subpoenas may be used to gather other information and documents related to the case.
Kentucky Statutes Limit the Scope of Discovery
The Rules of Civil Procedure provide rules for how discovery may be conducted, including limitations and deadlines. A party may object to a discovery request on numerous grounds. The judge hears arguments from both parties regarding the objection before making a final ruling.
If a party fails to respond to discovery, the requesting party may file a motion to compel with the court. The court may order the party to respond to the discovery request.
Why is Discovery an Important Phase in a Personal Injury Case?
The information received during the discovery phase helps parties prepare for trial. Each party uses the information to develop their trial strategies. Attorneys can prepare for examining witnesses and decide what evidence they need to introduce during the trial.
Also, the results of discovery can assist in settlement negotiations.
For example, the attorneys for the insurance company in a motorcycle accident case review the information obtained during discovery. They may advise the insurance company that the evidence against the defendant is clear and convincing. The insurance company may agree to a settlement instead of going to trial.
The effective use of discovery during a personal injury lawsuit can give plaintiff’s the evidence necessary to force a fair settlement or convince a jury that the plaintiff deserves full compensation for all damages.