What is Discovery in a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you’ve been injured in an accident and you are unable to amicably settle your claim with the insurance company, your next step would be to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party (or the insurance company directly if your claim is with your own insurance company). A lawsuit is a legal process ending with a trial, if necessary. A big part of this legal process is what is called discovery.
Discovery is the exchange of information between the parties to a lawsuit. It is designed to fully flush out all facts and evidence (good or bad) so that the parties can investigate and evaluate their claims, and prepare their case for trial. As most people who have been injured in an accident are new to this process, it can seem very intrusive and overwhelming. This is especially true when much of the information requested by the insurance company may not seem directly relevant to your case. Unfortunately, relevance is not the standard in discovery. In discovery, each side can seek information that is “reasonably calculated” to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. This is a very broad standard, whereas at trial only relevant evidence would be admissible.
The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure set forth the different methods or tools of discovery that can be used in a civil lawsuit. If a party fails to respond or provide information requested (absent a valid objection) using one or more of these discovery tools, that party could be subject to sanctions, the most severe of which could be the dismissal of a lawsuit for a Plaintiff, or the striking of defenses for a Defendant. The discovery tools are as follows:
Interrogatories are written questions that a party can send seeking a written response from the other party that is sworn to under oath. Although the questions are typically designed to discover information about your claim (or defenses), the responses can be used against you at trial.
For example, if you are injured in a car crash, you could ask the at-fault driver in an interrogatory if they had consumed alcohol within the hour prior to the crash. If they answer that question “no” and it is later learned that they had consumed alcohol within that timeframe, you could use this sworn interrogatory response at trial to impeach the driver and discredit their testimony.
Request for Production of Documents
This is a tool that can be used to request specific documents or other physical evidence that may be relevant to your claim or that may potentially lead you to relevant information. For example, in a slip and fall case involving a retail store, you would want to request a copy of any in-store surveillance video that the store may have that could have captured your fall and the events leading up to and after your fall. You can also request that certain items be made available for inspection.
Request for Admissions
A request for admissions is used to attempt to conclusively establish facts that you believe are not in contention. If the fact is admitted, no proof of that fact would be required at trial. Instead, you would simply read the admission to the jury. If a party denies a request for admission and that fact is later established as true, the denying party may be held liable for the other party’s attorneys’ fees incurred in establishing the fact.
A deposition is a formal interview wherein an attorney can directly ask a party or witness questions under oath. Deposition testimony, like interrogatory responses, can be used at trial.
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After an accident, it is important that you find a qualified Ruskin personal injury attorney to handle your claim. The attorneys at SouthShore Injury Attorneys handle only personal injury claims, and are experienced in representing injury victims throughout the State of Florida. If you’ve suffered injuries in a Ruskin personal injury accident, contact SouthShore Injury Attorneys at (813) 419-3866 for a free consultation.
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