Understanding the Discovery Process in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Web Admin - Thursday, February 07, 2019
Rolling Meadows personal injury lawyer discovery processIf you have suffered severe damages as a result of someone else’s negligence or malfeasance, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation from the at-fault party. In order to win your case, however, your lawyer will have to develop a strong set of facts and arguments through a legal process known as discovery

For example, if you are injured in a collision involving your car, an SUV, and a large commercial truck, some of the questions that will have to be investigated and argued include:

- What percentage of the fault for the collision should be attributed to each party involved in the crash, including the company that owns the commercial truck and employs its driver? 

- Exactly what physical injuries did you suffer as a result of the collision? 

- What are your reasonable medical expenses to recover from those injuries?

- Did the accident leave you with any permanent disfigurement or disability? 

- What other damages did you suffer, such as emotional trauma requiring psychotherapy or lost income from being unable to work?

The legal process through which the parties to a lawsuit exchange information and answer questions such as these is called discovery. Discovery has two phases: sharing of written documents and oral interviews known as depositions.

Written discovery typically involves three types of documents:

- Interrogatories - These are essentially questionnaires submitted by one party in the lawsuit to be answered in writing by another party. The questions may be as simple as asking for names, contact information, and relevant insurance information for everyone involved in the accident.

- Requests for production of documents - The other side may request documents such as your medical records, medical bills, records pertaining to your vehicle, and any photographs you may have of the accident scene, your vehicle, and your injuries. Your lawyer may, in turn, request such information from other parties to the lawsuit.

- Requests for admission - This document spells out certain facts of the case and asks that the other party admit or confirm that these facts are

true, so that these facts do not have to be further investigated or proven in court. For example, in an auto accident case, the request might seek to confirm the details of a negligent party’s personal liability insurance coverage, obtain an admission that they were not carrying out duties for an employer at the time of the accident, and seek an admission that it was their negligence that caused the crash.

The purpose of the written discovery phase is to lock down all possible evidence related to your case, including any evidence that the opposing parties may use to support their position. For example, there is typically an insurance company involved, and their objective will be to minimize the scope of your damages and thereby minimize the compensation they have to pay you. 


Once written discovery has been completed, your legal team will use that information to ascertain the questions they want to ask in the oral interrogation phase known as depositions. Depositions are expensive, so your legal team will want to prepare a very focused list of questions to ask in each interview. Depositions are made under oath and are generally video-recorded and transcribed. 

You may be surprised to learn that the discovery process in a personal injury case can take as long as six months to a year. While this may seem like a long time to wait for a settlement, a thorough discovery process is crucial to prove who was at fault and demonstrate the full extent of your damages. Most cases are won or lost in discovery, and most cases are settled based on the information that comes out of the discovery process, saving you the additional time and expense of a trial.

A Schaumburg Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in a car crash or other accident that was not your fault (or at least less than 50% your fault), be sure to select a Palatine personal injury lawyer who has the skill and experience to handle the discovery process for your type of case and advocate vigorously on your behalf. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


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