This is the next post in a series of articles discussing the litigation process following a car accident. Our previous post discussed how plaintiffs’ attorneys handle preliminary motions commonly filed by defense counsel in such matters. Pretrial motions are used to seek dismissal of a case, extend the time to file a pleading, or to challenge other technical or procedural matters, such as venue or jurisdiction. Experienced personal injury attorneys expect these motions and are prepared to challenge them on your behalf. In this article, we will discuss another important pretrial element of car accident litigation – the discovery process. This essential phase of litigation can be complicated and involves specific deadlines, filing requirements, and rules of procedure. It is important, therefore, to retain a lawyer knowledgeable about the litigation process to handle your case. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, we recommend contacting an attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
After a lawsuit is filed, attorneys for both sides engage in discovery. Discovery is the process by which either side gathers evidence from third parties in support of their respective arguments. The process includes sending written questions, or interrogatories, to parties who may have information about the accident. Recipients are required to provide written responses to the questions. Each side may conduct formal interviews with witnesses, called depositions, at which the witness provides testimony under oath. Other forms of discovery may include requests for production or subpoenas, which require the production of tangible evidence, such as documents, phone logs, text records, or GPS reports. This information can be especially useful in car accident cases where the defendant claims that they are not responsible for the accident.
Consider the following example. A catastrophic car accident occurs in a rural area with very few witnesses. The driver in one vehicle is paralyzed and unable to provide meaningful testimony as a result of his injuries. His passenger claims that the driver of the other car was driving erratically and swerved across the centerline causing the accident. The defendant disputes this claim. Through the discovery process, the plaintiff’s attorney requests the production of the driver’s cell phone and text message records as well as the car’s built-in GPS data. Upon studying the information provided, the lawyer learns that the defendant was texting at the time of the accident. Furthermore, the GPS data recorded high rates of speed and evidence of swerving leading up to the crash. Given the lack of witnesses, this independently gathered objective data may be sufficient for a jury to determine that the driver was acting negligently and therefore liable for the incident. The outcome of each case will be dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the particular accident.
It is important to remember that, unlike trials seen in the movies and on television, the evidence used in litigation is methodically gathered and shared during a trial. Lawyers do not win a case by surprising the courtroom with last-minute information. It is essential to retain counsel with experience using the discovery process to build their client’s case and present the information effectively to the jury. We also suggest that you retain a firm in which the attorneys are Board Certified in Personal Injury Law and which employs its own investigator. These recommendations are important whether you are injured in Fort Worth, Dallas, or elsewhere in Texas.