When parties cannot settle their differences through negotiations or mediation, either party may choose to file a civil lawsuit. By filing a lawsuit, the party is requesting that the court intervene to decide the issues and make a final ruling. Before the case goes to trial, each party has the opportunity to gather evidence to support the party’s allegations. The process of gathering evidence in a lawsuit is called the discovery phase.
Why is the Discovery Phase Important?
The discovery phase is a very important part of the litigation process. In order to win the lawsuit, a party must have more than speculation or opinion to prove or disprove the allegations in the lawsuit. The most compelling and credible evidence is physical evidence that supports the party’s allegations. In addition to physical evidence, testimony from witnesses can help corroborate the party’s allegations.
The discovery phase gives each party the ability to identify and gather evidence from the opposing party to use at the trial. The ability to discover information from the other party allows the attorney to prepare the case for trial. As the attorney discovers more information and evidence about the opposing party’s position, the attorney can ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of his client’s case and adjust the legal strategies he is utilizing to make his client’s case stronger. Furthermore, knowing the strength of the opposing party’s evidence is vital in deciding if it is in the client’s best interest to settle the case prior to trial or proceed to trial.
What Tools Are Used During The Discovery Phase?
The discovery phase can be simple or complex depending on the type of case. There are several discovery tools available to each party.
Interrogatories are written questions submitted to the opposing party. It is one of the most common tools used during the discovery phase because it provides a great deal of information with little cost. The answers submitted by the opposing party are under oath; therefore, the information gained from interrogatories can be used as evidence at the trial.
Requests for Production of Documents
Also referred to as Requests to Produce, this discovery tool consists of written demands to the opposing party for specific documents that are within the party’s “possession, custody, or control.” The party responding to the requests must provide copies of the requested documents, make the documents available for copying, or provide a release that allows the attorney to obtain the documents from a third party. If a party objects to a request, a hearing will be held for a judge to decide if the objection is valid.
Depositions allow the attorney to question the opposing party and witnesses under oath about the issues or facts related to the lawsuit. A court reporter places the person under oath and transcribes the entire deposition. Because the deposition is under oath, a person’s responses to questions can be used to impeach the person if his or her testimony changes at trial.
Requests for Admission
Requests for Admission are written questions asking the opposing party to admit or deny facts related to the case. It is extremely important that the party either admits or denies each request before the deadline or the request is deemed to be “admitted.” Requests for Admissions are used to narrow the issues of the case and clarify the opposing party’s allegations.
While there are other discovery tools that parties can use during the discovery phase, the above discovery tools are commonly used in most lawsuits. An experienced litigation attorney understands the importance of the discovery phase and uses discovery to build a strong case for his or her client.
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