There are millions of legal cases filed each year in the United States. Whether criminal or civil, there are some procedures you need to be aware of. Discovery is a process that comes into play during pretrial.
So what does it entail? Here’s what you should know about the discovery process.
Understand the Discovery Process on a Basic Level
All legal cases are set forth by the plaintiff, who files the case, and the defendant, who answers the claims. Both sides have legal representation and will use various evidence to prove their side.
Discovery happens before these matters are formalized. During discovery, both parties fact-find and set the tone for the rest of the case.
This could mean kicking the tires on a settlement in a civil case, while criminal case discovery might include the collection of physical evidence. There are numerous puzzle pieces in place when it comes to the discovery process.
You Will Be Part of a Deposition
The subjects in a legal case need to prepare for a deposition in most cases.
This is one of the most important facets of any legal case. These are interviews given out of court, similar to questions that will be asked in court. Depositions happen under oath and are typically video recorded or streamed. They also include an official transcript.
Depositions are helpful for both since it gives them a heads up on how certain questions will be answered in a court of law. This helps to hone strategy and lets both sides get more insight into the strength or weakness of their case.
Like in a trial, you may be asked to go through standard examination and cross-examinations that can occur as oral questions or written statements. Witnesses participate in depositions to gauge their value and how they will respond to questions.
Information Request Sheets Are Sent Back and Forth
Before the game is played out in court, both sides need to understand the rules of engagement. They get a heads up into what to expect in court by sending information request sheets.
If anything that the party answers in court doesn’t match their original written statement, you can call their credibility into question before the judge or jury.
Keep in mind that interrogatories are open-ended. As such, you should be very careful about wording questions to the other party and answering questions that they ask you.
With a request for admission, the other party is issued sets of questions that they must either admit or deny. These requests for admissions help when there are disputes on a narrative or any other fact of a case.
Lower Admission Standards Are in Place
Keep in mind that the discovery phase is the very beginning of the process, so not everything allowed in discovery will be allowed in court as evidence. The standard for admissions is much lower.
Rather than having to prove relevance, as you would in court, the information in discovery only has to have the possibility of relevance. There are several other pretrial hearings that take place which will whittle down admissible evidence little by little based on increasingly steep criteria.
Both Sides May Be Asked to Produce Documents
Hard evidence is always valuable in a court case. As such, both sides should expect to be asked to produce documents related to the situation.
This could include things like doctor bills, bank account information, accident reports, and other such documents. Your lawyer will need to enter these exhibits into court and will store multiple copies of these documents when building your case.
Both parties can also note when another party is hesitant or refuses to produce certain documents. It can paint the picture that the other side has been evasive, which indicates they have something to hide.
You Should Retain Strong Legal Counsel
Throughout the discovery process, having competent, exemplary legal counsel by your side is an absolute necessity. Your lawyer will not only know which questions to ask during discovery, but they’ll also protect you from being treated unreasonably.
Having your attorney in place this early in the process is critical since discovery sets the foundation. If you’re switching multiple lawyers throughout the process, you’re always asking your new attorney to play catch-up.
You’ll want to lean on your lawyer during this time because discovery sets the landscape of the case, and they’ll be able to update you on strategy and your likelihood of winning. Your lawyer will also need to be organized to keep track of all information and evidence gathered.
The discovery process will typically give your attorney an idea of whether you’ll want to settle, take a plea deal or take it to court.
Choose a lawyer that you can afford, and shop between different contracts and fee structures. Make sure that your lawyer is also a good communicator so that they can prepare you effectively.
Keep Researching the Legal Process
The discovery process is a pre-trial stage that is commonplace in the legal field. The more you know about this phase, the better prepared you’ll be should you ever have to go through it.
Let the tips above get you started in your legal research. We’ve got you covered with more information on all sorts of legal subjects. Browse our articles and start searching for a legal professional in your area.
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