What Is the Discovery Phase of a Lawsuit?
A personal injury claim allows an injured person to recover compensation for losses they have suffered in an accident that another party caused. These losses can include accident-related medical expenses, lost wages due to missed time at work, and damage to property that may have occurred in the accident.
The injured individual and their legal representative will generally negotiate with the at-fault party and their insurance company until both sides have agreed on a settlement. Sometimes, however, these negotiations do not end with an agreement acceptable to everyone involved. When the two sides reach an impasse, the injured person may need to file a lawsuit to recover the compensation they deserve.
If your personal injury claim is heading to court, one of the first steps in a lawsuit is the discovery phase. Understanding what discovery entails can help you feel more prepared as your case gets underway.
What Happens in the Discovery Phase of a Lawsuit?
The discovery phase is a formal process overseen by the court. It begins after you and your lawyer file the lawsuit and the at-fault party responds to your complaint. The purpose of discovery is to allow both sides’ legal teams to learn more about the opposing side’s legal theory of the case and to obtain evidence from the other side. Each party will be able to access evidence, testimony, and insights that might prove helpful to them as the case progresses. The parties could obtain information about the accident’s circumstances and the nature and causes of the plaintiff’s losses.
During the discovery phase, the attorneys for both sides will have the opportunity to employ any or all of the following tactics to gain a greater understanding of the case:
- Depositions – Formal interviews, transcribed by a court reporter, in which a lawyer questions a witness under oath about facts relevant to the accident claim
- Requests for admissions – A written means of asking the opposing side to admit facts pertinent to the accident
- Requests for production – Asking the opposing side to produce documents and materials relating to the claim
- Interrogatories – A series of written questions to the opposing party to find out more about the facts and circumstances of the accident and the claims springing from the accident
How Long is the Discovery Phase in a Lawsuit?
The unique nature of your case will be the primary factor determining the length of the discovery phase in your suit. However, judges issue scheduling orders that spell out deadlines for each stage of the process, including discovery, which will give you an idea of the latest date by which the phase will end. Your personal injury attorney will work to ensure you can meet this and all deadlines.
What Happens After the Discovery Phase in a Lawsuit?
The discovery phase can potentially change each party’s assessment of their chances of success in the lawsuit. In some cases, this means that the two sides are willing to enter into negotiations again to settle without going through the protracted and expensive process of a courtroom trial.
Additionally, many courts require that the parties involved attend a mediation session before a trial begins. Mediation is a process that allows the two sides to communicate with the help of a neutral mediator. Mediation aims to find common ground so the parties can reach a settlement.
If further negotiations and mediation do not work to the satisfaction of all parties, the case will move forward to trial. A trial will include the following steps:
Motions from both sides that may determine what evidence is admissible in court
- Jury selection
- Opening statements from both sides
- Direct and cross-examinations of relevant witnesses
- Closing arguments from both sides
- Jury deliberation and verdict
Once the judge or jury reaches a verdict and decides how much compensation to award you, the trial will be over. However, each side may also have an opportunity to appeal this verdict.
Contact an Experienced Louisiana Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident in Lake Charles, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer who will fight for your rights and interests at every step of the process. The Lake Charles personal injury attorneys of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC have developed a reputation of excellence for helping injured people in Louisiana. We are committed to doing the same for you. Call us today at 337-800-8800 or contact us online for a free consultation.