Filing a lawsuit or going through a divorce? You may run into thediscovery process. Although this may seem like a time to simply ‘get prepared’ for trial, you’ll want to take it as seriously as possible and get all the help you can find. Read on to learn more about:
An Overview on Discovery and What Is and Is Not Permitted;
How a Legal Team Helps You Prepare for your Case; and
Discovery Procedures and Tools Used to Form Your Story.
The Basics of Discovery
Discovery happens ahead of your day in court and allows you and your legal team to gather evidence and information from involved parties. Though we will go over what tools a legal team may use to acquire information, there are both oral and written types of discovery at your disposal that may be admissible in court.
You may see discovery in a lawsuit scenario, but you may also see it used in divorce proceedings that ultimately go to court. Discovery allows you to obtain information you otherwise would not be able to compel on your own. Special forms and fact-finding tools apply a degree of legal pressure on the opposing party to reveal whatever they may be hiding—whether its income, assets, information pertaining to the event that prompted the lawsuit, and so on.
There are pieces of information you may and may not request in discovery. For example, any witness testimony, anything said by a person that happened before or after the event, the upkeep and operations of a business involved in the lawsuit, a spouse’s income and assets, and relevant backgroundexperiences of a witness are all acceptable pieces of information to request for in discovery.
On the other hand, confidential conversations between a lawyer and a client, or a doctor and patient are off-limits. Likewise, any private information that is not relevant to the case or the person in question would not otherwise divulge is also off-limits. The same may be said about third parties.
It may seem like discovery is a technical and involved process, but don’t worry: having your lawyer and their resources at hand will save you time and stress.
Your Legal Team: A Personalized Approach to the Discovery Process
Attorneys both know the law and their resources. Chances are, your lawyer will have their own connections (or know a lawyer with connections) to local courts and other attorneys in the area. District attorneys, secretaries, clerks, assistants, judges: a devoted attorney uses all of these to their advantage in service of their client.
In addition, discovery can lead to a lot of paperwork you do not want to do. Likewise, if you are having trouble procuring information from another person and don’t have any leverage, your attorney can file interrogatories and requests for production of documents. With these, you will be able to push forward with your case with complete confidence that you will be entering the court well-stocked with the facts on your side.
Discovery is not just about facts: it is also strategy. Once your attorneys gather all the relevant information they need, they’ll start building your case. If you do not have a strong understanding of the law, this is definitely where having a lawyer will fortify your story.
You are at the center of a legal team; it is your case, story, and your facts. Thus, there is a chance you will be involved in parts of discovery, especially regarding the process’s primary tools.
Understanding the Tools of Discovery: From Depositions to Interrogatories
At the core of discovery are the tools used to obtain information—processes we’ve hinted at throughout this blog.
The most commonly used oral type of discovery is deposition, a term you may have heard before in law-themed movies or TV shows. Depositions are under-oath statements that happen ahead of court proceedings but may be used in the future for further fact-finding or on the witness stand. Both sides have the right to depose witnesses and may be present at each other’s depositions. These may also come to your aid in the event a witness cannot appear in court at the desired date; with their deposition in-hand, you have their oral testimony.
On the other hand, the most popular written type of discovery are interrogatories, or a series of written questions your lawyer sends to another party for them to answer. These aren’t just questions to take lightly; they are sworn, under oath statements that may be used in court alongside depositions, witness statements, and other forms of evidence. If served interrogatories, you will have 30 Days from the date propounded or served to answer them.
In any case, both parties in a civil or family case have a duty to supplement any responses with information or documents that add to those answers in the future. If you make a statement without sufficient information on-hand, you must correct or supplement it in the future. This must be done before the discovery’s deadline.
There are forms your lawyer may file and send to the opposing party in case they need to procure further evidence. Requests for production, admissions, or mental or physical examinations are all at your lawyer’s disposal and may be used in the course of discovery. Keep your eyes out for any of these served your way too.