Discovery and the Art of Preparing for Trial

When a person is injured, and another party is to blame for his or her injury, the injured party can file a lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries. Whether the defendant is liable or not depends on if he or she took reasonable care under the circumstances. If they did not, the defendant was negligent and may have to pay compensation to the injured party.

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Unlike on television, where trials often appear to happen just days after an accident occurs or a crime is committed, real trials are preceded by a somewhat lengthy period of what is known in legal terms as “discovery.” Generally speaking, discovery is a process by which the plaintiff and defendant exchange information about a case prior to a trial.

During the discovery phase of a personal injury case, the plaintiff and defendant are entitled to ask the other party written questions about the accident. These questions are called interrogatories.

Both parties are also typically entitled to question the other party under oath, which is often done in person and recorded on video, with attorneys for both sides present to ensure that the proceedings remain on point. This is known as a deposition, and both parties are also permitted to conduct depositions of witnesses that they believe possess relevant information about the accident or the plaintiff’s injuries.

The discovery phase of a trial also includes turning over documents to the opposing party that are relevant to the case. Documents that must be “produced,” or turned over, include letters, memos, faxes, reports, and printouts of texts and emails. Like the other aspects of discovery, the exchange of documents is based on the premise that a free interchange of information narrows the issues to be argued at trial and is more likely to elicit the truth in a factual dispute.

If all of this pre-trial back and forth sounds boring, it is. No wonder TV shows rarely include it. But mundane as it may seem, it is critical to the outcome of a case, and any omission, either unintentional or by design, can easily alter the outcome of a case.

This occurred recently in a case involving an Illinois man who was awarded over $20 million by a jury for injuries suffered while on a cruise around the world. According to one news source, the man, who was injured on the ship by automatic doors that he claimed malfunctioned and closed on his head, sued the cruise line for its failure to repair the doors or warn him of their defective nature.

Soon after the trial concluded, however, a former employee of the plaintiff came forward with allegations that the man intentionally deleted emails relevant to the case before the trial began. After hearing the former employee’s testimony and questioning the plaintiff about the deleted emails, the judge set aside the jury’s verdict and ordered a new trial. In doing so, the judge concluded that the plaintiff deliberately deleted relevant emails and thus significantly interfered with the cruise line’s ability to prepare for trial.

Have You Been Injured by a Person or Party You Have Reason to Distrust?

At Moll Law Group, our Chicago boat accident attorneys have seen it all. While we pride ourselves on practicing law with the utmost integrity, we know that others cut corners, and we know how to deal with them when they do. By choosing Moll Law Group, you are choosing attorneys who not only understand the law but also understand how other lawyers and their clients think. This is often just as important as the facts of your case. At Moll Law Group, we won’t let you be cheated by a savvy attorney or defendant. For a free consultation, call (312) 462-1700.

See More Posts:

Common Carriers Must Take Reasonable Care or Face Liability, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 12, 2016.

State-Owned Railway Is Protected by Sovereign Immunity, Supreme Court Decides, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 9, 2016.

Doctors and Drug Companies May Be Liable for Medication Side Effects, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 22, 2015.