LegalYou: Discovery

As a species, we owe a lot of things to discovery – fire, the wheel, deodorant.

And in civil cases, the process of discovery is every bit as crucial. Once a lawsuit is under way, it’s time for the parties to start gathering evidence and information that will help their causes.

Lawyers call this discovery.

Discovery can include the exchange of documents or physical objects. Each party can ask to see the other party’s documents with a request for production. Each party can also send interrogatories to the other side, which is just a list of questions that must be answered under oath. Or each party can ask the other party to admit certain facts so that you don’t have to bring evidence of that fact to trial. This is called a request for admissions.

Another discovery tool is face-to-face questioning sessions, called depositions. If one of the parties wants information that the other party won’t provide, a judge may resolve the dispute.

Here’s a basic rundown of what you can find out during discovery. As always though, LegalYou is here to help you with this, and more complex issues when representing yourself in court. So what are you going to want to discover?

For one, anything a witness saw, heard, or did in connection with the dispute. Anything that was said by anyone regarding the dispute. The identity of someone who might know anything about the dispute and where to find them. Detailed information on a business that has to do with the dispute.

And the background of a witness your opponent wants to use. Now, although most anything in connection with the case will be allowed, there are limits. This usually involves a privilege, which is when the law keeps certain conversations confidential because they were made between people in a relationship that the law wants to protect, like between a husband and wife, psychotherapist and patient, and lawyer and client. Legally, no one in these relationships is required to disclose information about the other.

Privacy can also sometimes be used to prevent discovery, if the court allows. But usually this extends more to third parties, such as witnesses, rather than the parties directly involved in the case. When representing yourself in court, it’s important to leave no stone unturned during the discovery process. And if you find important evidence under an actual stone, all the better.

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