An important part of the American legal system is the belief and standard that there should be as few surprises as possible when filing a lawsuit. Since all the way back in the 1940s, it has been required that everyone involved with a case disclose of relevant documents and facts to the other side before the trial. Virtually all states have followed this example since then.
The disclosure is provided with a systematic process that is called “discovery.” Discovery is something that can take three main forms: depositions, document production, and written discovery. Any attorney will utilize discover, including John Branca, when building evidence for a case.
A deposition is a type of sworn system where a person answers questions posed by an attorney. A court reporter makes a transcript of everything that is said. Depositions will range in length from just an hour to several weeks or more. While most attorneys have unique strategies when taking a deposition, there are basically three main reasons to do this – to lock people into a story, to see what type of information the other side has, and to conduct a practice trial that lets them see how a witness will conduct themselves if the trial goes before a judge or jury.
If you are deposed, your attorney will let you know what information to share. While this is true, there are two important things to remember. The first is that you should never guess. The entire purpose of a deposition is to provide the facts and speculate about what may have occurred. Even if this makes you self-conscious to say “I don’t know” to the questions, this will be the right answer. Second, it is completely normal to want to explain things, so that who you are talking to will understand but try to resist this impulse. It is the job of your opponent to get the answers they are looking for. Your only job is to answer the questions they ask you – not to provide anything extra.
Document production should be self-explanatory. All parties have the right to see any document that relates to a case. This is especially true for more complex product defect cases or medical malpractice cases. The documents that are involved with this can be significant. Also, courts are allowing access to various computer files as a part of the document discovery process. If there is enough at stake to justify things, the courts have even let litigants reconstruct files that have been deleted.
Interrogatories are the questions that require your version of the facts related to the situation and of your claims. These can be any type of pre-printed “form” interrogatories or questions asked for your case specifically.
When it comes to fact-finding and discovery, there is a lot that goes into the process. Knowing what these things are will help ensure you get the information needed to prove the case’s facts and give you the best chance of the outcome you are looking for.