DISCOVERY: What is "Discovery" in my California law suit?

Discovery in civil cases (like a California personal injury case) is a process where both sides, plaintiff (person hurt), and the defendant (person defending the injury claim), can obtain information from each other to help not only build a case or defense, but also to prepare evidence for a jury trial, if necessary.

Discovery can take several forms in California, and is governed by the California Rules of Civil Procedure.  It can include the following forms:  

  • 1.  Depositions (sworn oral testimony taken before trial);
  • 2.  Production of Documents request (making documents or items available for copying, including electronic information);
  • 3.  Medical examinations (also known as an IME, or Independent Medical Exam);
  • 4.  Requests for admission (asking the other party to agree to certain facts in writing);
  • 5.  Form Interrogatories (questions in a pre-drafted format, and only the ones that are checked need to be answered);
  • 6.  Special Interrogatories (questions that go beyond the Form Interrogatories where specialized or very specific information is requested);

Privileged information or communication (like attorney client communication) is protected from discovery, the attorney's work product in advocating his or her legal case,  and trial preparation materials. Discovery is also limited to matters relevant to the specific case at hand, and lawyers are ethically bound to conduct discovery honestly and diligently (no games).