When pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, the discovery process is a phase that involves both parties exchanging the information they have regarding the case, including evidence and witnesses.
Several methods of discovery are used to find out what the other side will be presenting at trial. Those include:
Written questions that the parties send back and forth that must be answered in writing and under oath. How a plaintiff (victim) or defendant (at-fault party) answers can be used against them later if they are asked the same questions in court and change their responses. The parties are limited to 25 interrogatories and must seek permission from the court or agreement of the other party to add additional interrogatories.
The parties to the lawsuit and any witnesses will be summoned to answer in-person questioning by the attorneys for each side. The testimony given is under oath but done outside of the courtroom. Under Missouri law, in-person depositions are limited to seven hours in one day. Anything longer requires the court’s permission or agreement from the other party.
Verbatim transcripts will be created, and similar to the interrogatories, any responses can be referenced at trial if witnesses change their statements. Depositions can also be read aloud at trial and submitted into evidence if the deponent cannot appear in person for questioning.
Requests for the production of evidence are written demands sent to the other party stipulating that they provide particular documents, items, or electronically stored information (ESI). Documents, items, and ESI commonly requested in personal injury lawsuits are proof of insurance, medical records, bills, evidence of lost income, repair or replacement invoices for property damage, traffic citations, photos or videos of the accident scene, employment files, property inspection, etc.
Requests can be made to the other party, asking them to admit or deny under oath in a written statement the truth of specific facts. This can save time and money since some facts are undisputed and can be admitted to, simplifying trial. In Missouri, parties are limited to 25 RFAs unless the court approves more or the other side agrees to exceed that limit.
Almost any information could be discovered, even if it was only slightly related to a case. However, Missouri’s amended Rule 56.01(b)(1) now limits the scope of discovery to information that is relevant but also “proportional to the needs of the case.” This language now mirrors its federal counterpart, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 26(b)(1).
According to Rule 56.01(b)(2), the court must limit discovery if it is determined that the discovery sought is outside the scope of the Rules, duplicative, or can be obtained through less burdensome means. These legal limits aim at preventing prying into subjects that serve no legitimate significance.
Laws are also in place that protect the verbal or written communication between:
Some examples of personal information that is also protected if it doesn’t relate to the case, includes:
Protection orders can be requested to keep sensitive information or materials confidential.