What Is Discovery?

What Is Discovery?

In legal practice, discovery refers to a period during a lawsuit where the parties share information, evidence, and testimony regarding the case. Discovery can also refer to general information or individual pieces of evidence. 

All personal injury cases filed with the court are governed by discovery rules that judges will enforce. If you have questions about discovery, then make sure to speak to an experienced attorney to get help.

Discovery Explained

In New York, the discovery process is outlined by The New York Rules of Civil Procedure. Once a formal legal petition, answer, and any counterclaims are filed in a civil case, then the discovery phase begins. During the process, both sides are required to share requested evidence about the case. 

The discovery period is not short. It can take months to complete the discovery process in a civil case. This is the time when you build your case as a plaintiff. If you are missing important pieces of discovery in your claim, then you can hurt your case considerably.

The Main Types of Discovery

There are four main categories of discovery in New York personal injury cases, they are:

  • Depositions: Depositions involve testimony that is given by parties before a trial. This testimony is sworn and recorded. Lawyers can make objections to questions in depositions that judges will rule on later. In New York, depositions are limited to seven hours per witness. Additional time can be gained by a showing of good cause. 
  • Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions given by both parties to get basic information about each other. In New York, you are limited to 25 interrogatories per side.
  • Requests for Production: These involve demanding someone involved in a case produce specific documents. These requests can be made to get documents such as medical records, police reports, or business records.
  • Requests for Admission: These involve demanding someone admit to certain allegations or questions. These requests help determine what facts are at issue in a case.

If a party or witness is worried that disclosing certain information in a discovery request will result in abusive action by the side receiving the information, then they can ask the court for a protective order. This protective order can outline what discovery is allowed and how it can be used.

If a party or witness in a case is not adhering to rules of discovery set out in The New York Rules of Civil Procedure, then the court can make them comply. 

How Discovery Is Important in a Personal Injury Case

Discovery is the backbone of most personal injury lawsuits because it will help paint a clearer picture of what happened. During this period, both parties will see the strongest and weakest evidence. They can also get an idea of what the case would look like if it went to trial. When the parties are able to see how a case may play out, they might be more inclined to talk about a settlement. 

Courts will generally encourage the parties to resolve their cases privately through a settlement, when possible, to reduce trials. Settlements are popular because they are guaranteed. When a settlement is made, both sides will know exactly what they will end up with. This can be an attractive option for many people involved in lawsuits. 

Examples of Discovery

Discovery comes in several forms. 

Common types of discovery that you will find in personal injury cases include:

  • Police records and reports
  • Medical records and reports
  • Property damage records and reports
  • Scene photographs
  • Phone and text message records
  • Business records
  • Video evidence
  • Electronic discovery such as emails

Discovery can also include other relevant information. If you have a good idea of what information you are looking for, then your discovery request will be more effective.  

Limitations on Discovery in New York

The New York Rules of Civil Procedure limit what information can be obtained through discovery in cases. Only relevant information that is not privileged can be discovered in New York civil cases. 

Relevant information includes anything that can help prove a fact or inference in a case. Attorney/client and doctor/patient relationships involve privileged communication and documentation. This information is generally not discoverable.

Trust Our Attorneys to Handle Your Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you are considering filing a civil personal injury lawsuit in New York, then you will need to understand the discovery process. Make sure to direct your legal questions to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. At Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C., we are proud to offer free consultations so you can have a professional review of your case with no obligation to you. To schedule your consultation, call us at (212) 607-8241 or contact us online.