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Understanding the Discovery Phase in Civil Litigation

Once a lawsuit is filed in court, the parties begin “discovery,” which is the process of exchanging and disclosing relevant information about the case. Written questions (called interrogatories) may be answered, documents may be exchanged, and depositions may be taken. A California civil litigation attorney from Evans Kingsbury LLP can be critical in helping you gather the evidence that you need to support your case.

Do I Have to Tell the Other Side Everything?

Unlike what you might see in lawyer shows on television, the evidence that a party presents at trial is usually not a surprise to the other party. Both parties must participate in discovery and exchange information that the other party requests. The process allows each party to learn more about the other side’s position and find evidence that may benefit them when the case goes to trial or may assist in resolving the dispute short of trial.

Most information is discoverable, except information that is protected or privileged in some way. Some examples of information protected from the discovery process include communications between attorneys and their clients, and some medical and mental health records, where no personal injury is alleged. Your lawyer will assist you in asserting objections to discovery requests and determining whether the information and documents sought are actually discoverable.

If you don’t believe that you should have to disclose some information because it is protected, you can file a motion in court seeking to limit discovery. The judge then will decide whether the information is subject to discovery.

How Does Discovery Work?

Parties can request discovery using different methods under the California Code of Civil Procedure. They can ask for discovery from the other party or third parties, depending on where the information is located and who has access to it. If you receive a discovery request, you typically have a specific amount of time to assert legal objections and provide answers to that request. You can ask for an extension if you need more time to answer the request.

Some of the most common civil discovery methods include interrogatories, requests for production of documents, depositions, and requests for admissions. The parties can use the answers they receive to these requests during trial.


Interrogatories are written questions that you must answer in writing and under oath. Common interrogatories include the names and contact information of any individuals you intend to call as witnesses at trial, identification of documents you intend to use as evidence at trial, and more.

Requests for Production of Documents

Requests for production of documents are requests for you to turn over copies of specific documents or types of documents that are relevant to the case. These requests also may concern other forms of tangible evidence, such as photographs, recordings, electronically-stored documents, and other physical items.


During a deposition, the attorney for the other party asks you questions that you must answer under oath. A court reporter usually records the deposition and produces a written transcript of everything said. Depositions may be taken of the parties and of third parties.

Requests for Admissions

Requests for admissions list specific facts that the other party asks you to admit. You can admit, deny, or object to each fact. However, if you don’t respond to a request for admissions within 30 days, the court can enter an order that you have admitted all the facts contained in the request for admissions, which can be used as evidence against you at trial.

Contact the Civil Litigation Attorneys of Evans Kingsbury LLP Today

Discovery can be a lengthy and complex process, both in issuing and responding to requests for information. When involved in civil litigation, discovery is a necessary part of the proceedings. Having an experienced Northern California civil litigation lawyer on your side can make the discovery go much more smoothly. Contact Evans Kingsbury LLP today by calling (707) 596-6090 or visiting us online and learning more about how we can help you with your civil case.

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