What Is Discovery?

You may hear the term “discovery” in connection with legal matters.  What does this term mean?  How is it important to victims of personal injury, and how do personal injury attorneys use discovery to help their clients collect monetary damages for their injuries?

The Basics of Discovery

Discovery is, in its most basic form, the process for learning about the facts of a case.  When a lawyer begins the discovery process, he or she is searching for answers.  Questions always arise such as, “How was the victim injured?  What are the facts of the accident?  Who owned the property where the injury occurred?  Was there any insurance coverage?”  These and many other questions must be answered before a settlement agreement is made.

Discovery often begins with a court order.  The judge orders both parties in the case to turn over any and all information they have pertaining to the case.  For example, if the accident involves a large truck driving for a company, the company may be ordered to turn over all hiring records of the driver, the driver’s log, and any other important information pertaining to that driver and that truck.  Police reports, medical records, and other documents all change hands as a result of the discovery.  When a judge orders both sides to produce all information pertaining to a case, it is unlawful and unethical to hold any information back.

Why Defendants Don’t Like Discovery

Unfortunately for the defendants in many personal injury cases, the discovery process can bring things to light that highlight the true value of the case.  Because insurance companies are not interested in paying more money than necessary, they often try to stop discovery before it actually gets started.  Here are a few ways they do so:

  • Trying for a quick settlement. Probably one of the most common tricks that insurance companies use to devalue personal injury cases is to try to get the victim to sign a settlement agreement very early in the process.  Once an agreement is signed, the victim will no longer be allowed to access discovery information and may never realize the true value of his or her case.
  • Trying to remove defendants from the lawsuit. Another common maneuver is to try to have a particular defendant removed from a lawsuit.  In general, personal injury attorneys will try to attach anyone who was involved to the suit in order to get discovery on all possible defendants.  By removing someone from the suit, the insurance company may be able to hide liability on the part of certain defendants, lowering the overall value of the case.
  • Trying to hide particular records. Although it may be unethical to do so, there are sometimes legal ways to avoid giving a victim the full picture of the accident and all the defendants involved.  If it is lucrative for an insurance company to do so, the company may try to downplay or even hide certain aspects of the case from a victim. 

At Barber & Associates, our attorneys are dedicated to helping our personal injury clients collect damages for their injuries, including payment for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.  We work hard to ensure that our victims receive a fair settlement.  If you are the victim of someone else’s negligence, give Barber & Associates a call today.  We want to work with you on your personal injury case and ensure that you are treated fairly.

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