What’s the Discovery Phase of a Lawsuit?

Most television shows and movies seem to focus on the trial phase of litigation. However, many lawsuits never make it that far. Sometimes the information that comes to light during the discovery phase leads to successful settlement negotiations. In other cases, the discovery might lead attorneys and clients to change strategies. Why is the discovery phase so important? That’s what we will cover in this article.

A General Litigation Timeline

Not all lawsuits are the same. The facts of the case and other elements typically dictate how the lawsuit will proceed. However, most litigation follows this timeline.

A lawsuit originates when at least one person or company (the “plaintiff”) files a complaint or petition against at least one other party (the “defendant”). The lawsuit is served on the defendant, who then must file an answer by a specific deadline.

During the motions phase, the parties might file motions about the case. For example, the defendant might file a motion to dismiss the case entirely.

Parties typically start the discovery phase next.

Finally, the parties might head into pre-trial and trial. Cases decided at trial might even continue to a post-trial phase if a judgment was entered or one party appeals.

Some cases hinge on what happens during the discovery phase.

Actions Taken in the Discovery Phase of a Lawsuits

This is when all the parties start to exchange detailed information about the case. Some or all of the following documents will pass between the parties:

  • Requests for Admissions
  • Request for Production of Documents
  • Interrogatories

The party that receives the document has to answer it by a specific deadline. In some cases, plaintiffs and defendants produce documents that could serve as exhibits at trial.

Attorneys take depositions during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. A deposition occurs when a person answers questions under oath and before a court reporter. First, a notice of deposition is sent to the party who will be questioned. The attorney that scheduled the deposition questions the witness. The other attorney can object. In some cases, the parties take objections to the judge to decide whether the question is allowed.

If experts will provide expert reports or testimony in a case, an attorney may depose them at this time.

Some documents could be protected, which means they cannot be used outside the lawsuit. For example, a company’s confidential information might be sealed or viewed by only a limited number of people and the judge. Also, attorney work product generally is protected from discovery as well as information that does not pertain to the questions raised in the lawsuit.

The information received during discovery is critical to the future of a lawsuit. Failing to answer questions can be detrimental. Lying under oath or answering deceptively can be considered perjury.

Your Attorney Can Explain the Discovery Phase of Your Lawsuit

Powell Law carries on a 115-year tradition of providing thoughtful, effective representation protecting and asserting the rights of Pennsylvanians living in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for representation in personal injury cases in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE, and you don’t pay unless we win!

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