What does "Discovery" Mean?

After a lawsuit is filed in court, "Discovery" is the time in a California personal injury for both sides (injured party and defense) to discover evidence that may help their case in anticipation of a jury trial, arbitration, or even a settlement mediation. In legal jargon, "Discovery" is used as the "catch-all word" that encompasses the legal process to request it and obtain it. The defense can start their discovery process once they have been served by a lawsuit in California by a process server, or someone over 18 years of age, and not connected with the case, and the injured party (Plaintiff) can start their discovery process 10 days after the injured party is served the lawsuit.

What is the Discovery Process?

After the guidelines above are satisfied, either party can serve on the other party's written discovery in the form or written questions that each party must answer and verify under penalty of perjury. For example, discovery questions served on an injured party by the defense in a car collision case would be questions such as identification of who you are, where you live, your educational background, the facts of the car collision, what you did at the collision, your medical care from the collision, and any previous injuries or medical conditions that were either affected or made worse from the car collision. Likewise, the injured party could serve questions on the defense regarding questions pertaining to the collision, why they violated a particular safety rule of the road, and if there were other parties that were complicit in causing the car collision. 

Following written discovery questions, the defense normally likes to set the deposition of the at-fault party which means they can ask questions under oath with a court reporter. The injured party can do the same if necessary. As the case proceeds further, depositions of each side's "experts" would be in order which is typically the medical provider for the injured party, and the defense doctor who examined the injured doctor. So, the defense has the right to call an injured party for a defense medical exam which is also part of the "discovery process."

What Happens If Either Side Fails To Answer The Discovery Questions, Or Attend A Deposition

The requesting party can file a motion to compel with the court to make sure the discovery is completed. Judges dislike discovery disputes and normally both sides are professional especially if both sides are represented by lawyers. In my experience, discovery disputes are a very rare occurrence, and the court would get involved if it ever became an issue. The Discovery Process is governed by the California Code of Civil Procedure, and those rules guide and make sure that the process is moving along.

So, that is "Discovery" in a nutshell. If you have questions about your case, and you need help, feel free to call me at 619.813.7955. I take calls like this all the time, and I would be more than happy to help. 

Stay strong, Mark C. Blane

Mark Blane
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San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer | California Car Accident Attorney