During a car accident lawsuit, the discovery phase is a pretrial investigation process in which each party’s attorneys exchange documents, evidence, and other information while evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case and preparing for trial. If you’re filing a lawsuit against another driver in Bryan or Hempstead, TX, here’s what’s likely to happen during the discovery phase of your case.
The Discovery Process in a Car Accident Lawsuit
Following a car accident, a lawsuit usually only becomes necessary if the at-fault driver’s insurance provider refuses to pay a fair out-of-court settlement. To initiate litigation, your attorney will file an official complaint with the court that outlines how the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and your injuries. The complaint will also describe the compensatory damages you’re demanding.
The defendant’s lawyer, who’s often appointed by their insurance provider, will then answer the complaint. In most cases, they’re likely to deny the allegations and may even attempt to divert blame for the accident with a counterclaim against you or a cross-claim against another party. If your complaint is denied by the defendant, litigation will proceed into discovery.
Gathering Evidence During Discovery
During the discovery process, your attorney will collect evidence to present to the judge and jury in court. While initially negotiating for an out-of-court settlement, your attorney will likely have already gathered a great deal of evidence. During discovery, with the aim of winning over a jury, they’ll probably need to collect even more robust evidence and prepare various witnesses to give testimony in court.
Evidence supporting your claim and damages may include photos and videos of the accident scene, the police report, eyewitness testimony, expert witness testimony, doctor’s records, medical bills, and more. At the same time, the opposing party’s attorney will usually gather their own evidence to dispute liability and the value of your damages.
Disclosing Documents, Evidence, and Facts
Before a trial begins, by law, each party much disclose all relevant materials, evidence, and documents pertaining to the trial. The testimony of each driver and any witnesses will also be disclosed during the discovery period.
The phase of disclosure, where each party “discovers” how the other party is going to argue and prove their case, is a formal and often time-consuming process. Information is exchanged in the following ways, each of which your attorney can explain and prepare you for:
Throughout discovery, many questions will pass to and fro between each party in the form of interrogatories: formal written questions that must be answered truthfully under oath by a certain date. Your attorney may use interrogatories to find out what the insurance provider’s investigation into the accident revealed, details of the policy coverage, expert witnesses they intend to use, and so on.
The defendant’s attorney may use interrogatories to find out information about you, your injuries, your account of what happened in the accident, your medical treatment, missed work details, and other information related to your damages. Your attorney will help you answer these questions with precision and care before editing the final answers. The answers submitted to interrogatories become formal legal documents to be used throughout the lawsuit.
Another important information-discovering process is depositions. Depositions are also an opportunity for the attorney to ask questions that must be answered under oath, but with depositions, the question-and-answer sessions take place in person. Both attorneys will be present, plus a court reporter who records everything said.
During depositions, you as the plaintiff and also the defendant will be questioned at length, as well as eyewitnesses or expert witnesses. This is an opportunity for each attorney to see how you or the defendant will perform under oath and the pressure of a courtroom interrogation. A poor deposition performance can harm the value of a claim, so an experienced attorney will always prepare you extensively in advance.
The two attorneys will also ask each other questions and request copies of documents. These documents will commonly include insurance policies and evidence such as witness statements, photographs, medical bills and records, and expert witness statements.
Requests for Admissions
In discovery, each attorney may also send direct requests for admissions, which ask the plaintiff or defendant to admit to very specific accusations pertaining to the case. These requests are sent in the hope that the other party will admit to something that undermines their argument.
Independent Medical Examinations
In an effort to challenge your damages, the defendant’s attorney has the right to arrange an independent medical examination of your injuries. The medical practitioner they hire to perform the examination will then write a report giving their opinions on your condition and future recovery prospects, which they may also testify about in court.
Each attorney may also issue subpoenas that legally order third-party individuals and businesses to disclose documents and information relating to the case. For example, the defendant’s attorney may serve your employer with a subpoena to access records of how much time you’ve taken off work due to your injuries, or the amount of wages you’ve lost as a result of missed work.
Final Settlement Negotiations
Once all evidence and information have been exchanged, a new phase of settlement negotiations is usually entered. Your attorney may draft another demand letter, restating your depiction of events, the liability of the at-fault driver, and your damages. It’s likely that after the more in-depth discovery process, you’ll have a much stronger case to present.
Such compelling evidence may have been uncovered that the defendant’s insurer is now willing to change its tune and pay a fair out-of-court settlement. This is often preferable to an insurer than facing the high expense of a court case they’re likely to lose.
Mediation May Be Necessary
This final negotiation phase may enter mediation, where a neutral mediator will facilitate the negotiations and offer their opinion on how to reach a resolution. Mediation allows a final chance for an agreement to be worked out in less formal settings than in court.
Ordinarily, each attorney will speak before the mediator and then speak to them again in private. There sometimes follow several more phases of mediation and negotiation as new information and opinions are uncovered. If even mediation fails, the case will finally advance to trial to be decided by a judge and jury.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Hempstead or Bryan, TX
When pursuing a lawsuit in Bryan or Hempstead, TX, you’ll be filing your complaint in a local Texan court. It’s therefore advisable to hire a local attorney who knows the region’s court system and personal injury laws well. When your attorney is based nearby, it will be easier for you to meet during discovery while preparing for your depositions and answering interrogatories.
A well-established local attorney will also have a database of nearby reliable expert witnesses to call upon. This database can be an invaluable asset, especially in cases where expert witness testimony may hold a great deal of weight.
If you’d like an award-winning trial attorney to represent you in court, contact Brian C. Gutierrez at (979) 364-5346 for a free consultation. Brian has over 15 years of experience helping injured car accident victims in Brazos County and nearby recover full and fair compensation for their losses. He can do the same for you.