What Does Discovery Mean in Legal Terms

If you’ve ever been involved in a lawsuit, you have likely served the other party, or have been served, discovery requests. Discovery is the exchanging of relevant information about the case. This information can help the parties involved to decide the best course of action moving forward. If can also assist with crafting an early settlement offer or helping to present the case in court. If you are served a request for discovery, you are required to respond. Not doing so can lead to enforcement from the court. 

As a lawsuit begins, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney formulates a discovery strategy that is aimed at learning as much as possible about who will be trial witnesses for the opposing side, what the testimony of those witnesses will consist of, and what documents they will bring to support their claims.

The discovery process can be quite expensive and time-consuming. The number of witnesses involved in the trial and where they are located contribute to the arduous nature of the discovery process. Consequently, thorough trial preparation from an attorney is critical. Lawyers need to craft and execute a discovery strategy that informs and educates about all the facts of the case and minimizes the chance that something will be revealed for the first time at trial.

Types of Discovery 

Several different types of discovery are common in lawsuits, including: 

Request for Disclosure: Disclosures pose questions about the general information of the case. They name each party in the lawsuit, the legal theory of the case, how the damages were values, any witnesses you may call at trial, and more. When the court upholds this Discovery Request, you are required to answer all the questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. 

Request for Production: Production is the request for evidence, such as pictures, emails, texts, bank statements, written documents, and more. It is anything that can be used as evidence in the court proceedings. Both sides of the lawsuit can request Production. An attorney has an opportunity to object to specific questions. Therefore, if you are served with Request for Production, your lawyer will need to advise you on how to answer those questions most appropriately. 

► Request for Interrogatories: Interrogatories are are written questions about specific areas of the case. You are required to answer these interrogatories. You are required to answer Interrogatories with established limits that are determined by the type and magnitude of the case. For instance, there is a limit of 25 questions under a Level Two Discovery. Your lawyer has the option to object to these questions and will counsel you on how to craft your responses to them. 

► Request for Admissions – Admissions requests serve to provoke an individual to admit to a wrongdoing of something or the accuracy of a statement. These questions are important to answer, as not replying can play into the other side’s strategy. Not answering means admitting to all of the questions. 

All Discovery Requests, once served, must be answered within thirty days. Failing to respond to them, or failing to reach an agreement with the other side for an extension, can lead to the other party filing a Motion to Compel. Once this motion is filed, the court will force you to answer. An attorney can provide more information about how discovery can affect your unique case.

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