Once a personal injury case has begun, your attorney will start a process called “discovery.” This is a procedure in which both sides exchange documents about the case. Discovery is the longest part of a personal injury lawsuit and can take a year or more from the date the defendant files their answer to the eventual settlement or trial.
If you did not have an attorney before this point, you will want an attorney when documents like “Request for Admissions” and “Demand for Documents” start arriving at your door.
The written discovery usually contains two or three parts.
- Interrogatories. This is a list of questions. The opposing counsel will ask you about your job, your injury, your finances, medical history, and other things related to the case. In return, your attorney will send a list of questions to people involved in your case. For instance, if you have been in a car accident, the other driver will be sent a set of interrogatories like yours.
- Request for Admissions. Just as it sounds, the request for admissions, or “RFA” asks you to admit to certain things, so the attorneys do not have to argue about entering evidence about them in court. If the accident took place at 5:00 p.m. on the corner of Main and Spring St. in Your Town, USA, you might be asked to admit all that was true. This avoids having to prove every single bit of that later in court.
- Request for Production of Documents. Sometimes called an “RFP” or “RFD” by the paralegal or secretary handling the case, this request asks you to produce all the documents the opposing counsel believes are relevant to the case. This could be medical records, bills, repair invoices, or any other document which you have that could be related to the case.
What If I Don’t Want to Answer These Questions?
Usually, you must answer at least some of them. The language of the court documents says that you must answer within a reasonable amount of time, and to the extent you are reasonably able to do so. If you do not know the answer to a question, or cannot get a document, you are allowed to say so.
If you believe a question is not relevant to your case, this is where your attorney will step in. There are objections your attorney can make to certain questions, such as that they are invalid, or overbroad, that will allow you not to answer, but you cannot refuse to answer a question outright.
After the written discovery has been exchanged, your attorney may request depositions from the other parties. A deposition is a little like being in court. The person being questioned, the “deponent,” will be placed under oath, and then asked questions about the case. The difference is that a judge will not be present, and the purpose is only to gather information. The opposing counsel will also be present and can cross-examine the deponent if they wish.
You may also have to sit for a deposition, and your attorney will prepare you to answer questions. If the questions are confusing or unclear, your attorney has the right to object or ask for clarification.
Examinations and Expert Witnesses
In a personal injury case, it is common for the insurance company to ask for an independent medical examination to assess your injury. If you are making a claim for pain and suffering, you may also have to have a mental health evaluation. Your attorney will prepare you for these examinations, as well, and explain what the doctors are looking for.
If the case is complex or involves technical or scientific details, your attorney or the opposing attorney may ask for expert testimony. The expert can appear at a deposition or provide a written opinion. For instance, if the accident required you to have a specific type of surgery and the installation of rods in your neck, an expert might be called in to explain why this was necessary and why ordinary surgery could not be done.
How We Can Help
Once a case has been set for trial and the discovery phase begins, it becomes complicated. As you can see from this brief description, there are details that the layperson may not understand, and which the insurance company and their attorney can use to their advantage.
When you need legal help with your personal injury case, contact the New Jersey personal injury lawyers of Brach Eichler Injury Lawyers at (973) 364-8300 as soon as possible. Our team is ready to review your case, whether you have already begun the case or need to file your lawsuit. Contact us right away for your confidential consultation.