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Usually, people go about their daily lives without thinking about law work. But injury victims will need to learn about this process. After all, filing an injury case in Los Angeles and the unique elements of the case are information intensive.
Discovery is one of the main ways a personal injury plaintiff develops and proves the plaintiff’s burden.
Gathering the correct information from the start can help in preparing. Knowing what to expect with the legal process is vital. And choosing the right injury lawyer, in particular, is also paramount. Specific discovery rules govern lawsuits.
These rules intend to give the plaintiff and defendant the capability to assemble valuable information.
After the filing of a lawsuit, attorneys use specific methods to obtain relevant information during court cases. This information can include personal injury case law, etc.
The information provided can help streamline the process in a personal injury case. Because of these answers, parties can better understand the specific terms and timelines.
In California personal injury cases, both the plaintiff and defense make a list of questions. First, they send these interrogatories to the other side. Next, the other side provides answers.
At least, that is the idea. This article covers Special Interrogatories and Judicial Council-approved Form Interrogatories. Covered elsewhere will be our discussion on Requests for Production of Documents and Things.
So this is a simple process. First, you must mail “Form” and “Special Interrogatories” to the other side. These particular questions seek to identify something. For example, they will ask for names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, employment, etc.
Other informal discovery types include handcrafted “Requests for Admissions,” asking the other party to admit or deny something like
“ADMIT the medical bills are reasonable,” etc. And, of course, there are also “Requests for Production of Documents and Things” that can force a party to turn over actual documents and things like DVDs for inspection and examination. These are all known as informal discovery.
Judicial Council-approved Form Interrogatories have boxes a party can check with specific questions. So the Court will typically want to know the answers too. Most of all, these are excellent methods to obtain basic info like birth dates and whether or not the other party has a liability insurance policy.
That way, we know if some kinds of coverage for the accident or mishap are available.
Of course, the party that receives the interrogatories must provide proper answers to the questions they received. Along with these guidelines, there is a time frame. The standard rule is thirty days from receipt, plus time for mailing.
But the party’s must verify their responses, or they constitute “no response at all.” (See Appleton v. Superior Court.)
The written answers must be accurate to the best of the individual’s knowledge. And the responses must have written verification of this fact. As discussed, the questions in the interrogatories will usually be about the background. So these will seek info about past injury claims, past medical histories, etc.
Defendants will seek your employment history. Focusing on specific types of questions helps discover evidence. Fishing expeditions are proper during initial discovery. But if objected to, this evidence may not come in at trial. But since it could lead to other admissible evidence, courts allow liberal discovery.
The questions might involve how specific injuries occurred from the incident and potential witnesses. Each state has its own rules and guidelines. In all events, in California, it remains essential to retain a trained personal injury lawyer.
Most of all, knowledgeable lawyers in the state where your incident occurred. That way, they know how the state deals with the questions and answers for discovery.
The other party must respond to the questions when court-approved interrogatories are used. After all, many judges consider it mandatory for parties to comply with the approved interrogatories. However, they are objectionable. But not every question may be valid in your case. So don’t just check every box. After all, the court could sanction you for abusing the discovery process.
The answers to the interrogatories’ questions are crucial for each side, determining party litigation direction. Courts call these answers “admissions.” So these give the lawyer the capacity to read the court responses aloud. Experienced know there is power in using the admissions from the interrogatories in court.
And this party’s answers can be used by the defense later to impeach or contradict the deponent. Parties can compel untimely interrogatories and file a motion for “sanctions” that can accompany this motion. Some courts treat bogus responses or nonresponses as contempt of court.
What discovery can do is educate the person on what to expect. Discovery helps the client work with their lawyer. Above we saw that interrogatories are helpful tools. Conducting discovery builds a solid case. Look at our injury law blog to learn more.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.