Unlike what you may see on television, legal disputes in Northern California are not filed and brought to trial within a few weeks. Before any civil lawsuit goes to trial, both sides engage in a process known as discovery.
During discovery, both parties request, collect, and share relevant information regarding their case. This helps the trial proceed smoothly because each side should have the information they need to present their case well in advance and without unfair surprises.
Discovery can be very expensive and time-consuming. In many cases, the majority of litigation costs are incurred during discovery. It takes a lot of time for civil litigators to develop interrogatories and request, collect, and review the necessary information related to a civil lawsuit.
Two Types of Discovery – Informal and Formal
Informal discovery simply means gathering information from cooperative people or organizations before and during a lawsuit. The parties can help with informal investigation before the case even starts. This preliminary information can help your attorney decide if your case is even worth filing.
Informal discovery may include:
- Witness interviews;
- Obtaining documents from police departments and officers, treating doctors, and entities such as schools, banks, and corporations;
- Taking or requesting photographs of relevant places and things such as a damaged vehicle, an accident site, or an injured body part;
- Requesting information about your opponent such as insurance coverage, employment, or possible motivation.
Formal discovery begins after a civil lawsuit has been filed. Several methods are available to obtain information from the other side.
Formal discovery may include:
- Depositions — face-to-face interviews with the opposing party or a relevant witness where the person being questioned is sworn to answer under oath. The entire conversation is recorded by a court reporter or it may be audio or videotaped. A written transcript is prepared and may be used during the trial.
- Interrogatories — written questions sent to the other party that must be answered in writing and under oath. The answers can be used at trial especially if the answering party changes their story.
- Requests for production of documents — a list requesting particular documents that may be relevant to the lawsuit and are controlled by the opposing side. If a document is requested but not supplied during discovery, it may not be admissible at trial.
- Requests for Admissions — a document asking a party to admit certain statements. If the party receiving this request fails to respond, the statements may be deemed admitted. These admissions can also be used at trial.
- Subpoenas — court orders that require the other side or a third party to appear in court to testify or produce physical evidence such as medical records, photographs, or other documents for inspection.
Discovery does not always go smoothly in Sonoma County. Lawyers can object to discovery requests for various reasons. If both sides cannot agree about the requested information, either side can file a motion asking the judge to decide the discovery issues.
At Evans Kingsbury LLP we are Sonoma County, California based, seasoned litigators who can guide you through the complicated discovery process. Count on our entire team to ensure your case is properly prepared before going to trial.
Avoid any trial surprises by contacting our experienced team today to discuss the best way to prepare your civil lawsuit. Call us at (707) 596-6090 or fill out our easy contact form.