Contributed by Copeley Johnson Groninger, PLLC
After you are wronged or badly injured, your health, your money, and your future may all be at stake. You try to do all you can to recover from a bad situation that is not your fault. You fight your fear and call us for help. Then your lawsuit is finally filed and you can begin to think that this important situation might someday come to an end.
Then you receive questions sent by the defendant. We tell you to answer them to the best of your ability. You look at the questions in disbelief. You see that the defendant has asked for information that your co-workers, your friends, or maybe even your mother might not even guess about you!
If you receive these questions, then your case is in discovery. This is the pre-trial procedure that allows you and the defendant to exchange information and evidence in a formal way. We also serve the defendant with discovery. You may see the some of the following types of discovery in your claim:
- Interrogatories: questions that require written answers.
- Requests for production: ask for documents that support your answers or are relevant to your claim, like medical records.
- Depositions: oral questioning under oath
- Requests for admission: ask to admit or deny statements
- Subpoenas: ask for a person to produce documents or to testify
- Requests for medical examinations
The most important rule in discovery is always the simplest one: tell the truth. As in most things, remember what your parents told you – the truth is what matters. Telling a lie may mean that information that could have stayed out of court – because the other side is trying to catch any untruths or any missing information. They are looking for this because they want to make you look bad at trial.
Can they ask that? Most people are concerned because the questions ask for personal information. Sometimes that information could be:
- Where you went to school
- Where you have lived and worked
- Your past injuries
- Mental health and other medical treatment
- Your criminal history and driving record
- Past lawsuits and settlements
- Your social media posts
- Other subjects having to do with your claim
Your lawyer will object and not answer certain questions. Some information is too far in the past to matter and some you may not recall. Some information is simply too much to have to provide, or could even be information that the defendant already has. And you won’t have to provide information that is just between you and your lawyer! That information is privileged. But you should provide all the information you can, even when you think it is not important or none of the defendant’s business.
Rest assured that at every step in discovery we are there to answer your questions. We will be there to help pull information together, to request records, and to prepare you for what is to come. But your lawyer cannot answer the defendant’s questions for you. The answers must be your own.