03.13.17

What Is The Purpose Of The Discovery Process In Personal Injury Cases?

Posted in Legal Terms at 3:02 pm by kevin

The American justice system is already overloaded to the point of exhaustion. One of the principles of the court system is that by the time a case goes to trial, there should be as few things left to surprise as possible. To hold a fair trial, both prosecution and defense are required to turn over the facts that they have concerning the case.

If both sides came to court without any idea of what the allegations were or what evidence each held, then the courtroom would be a place of utter chaos. That is why since 1940, there has been a requirement that any documents or relevant facts in a case be presented to the opposition before the trial.

To be able to defend or prosecute equitably and not take up more time than necessary, each side has to provide a “heads up” about what will come during the trial, so that both are better prepared to present the best case possible and to receive a swift resolution to any personal injury case.

The process of “discovery” is a way that each side sees the cards that the other side holds prior to entering the courtroom. There are three types of discovery that must be given before any case begins. They are document production, depositions and written discovery.

 

Document production

In discovery, if either the prosecution or defendant has any factual documents, they are required to share a copy of those documents with the opposing side. Things like contracts, medical documents and now even computer files are all parts of document production discovery. With the growing age of technology, this discovery type continues to grow, sometimes encompassing things like emails and deleted files that are rediscovered.

 

Depositions

Deposition discovery means that any sworn statements given, be shared with the opposing side. When a person is questioned and gives answers to an attorney, those statements are recorded and transcripts are then made. Depositions can vary in length from an hour of questioning to months. The reasons that attorneys record depositions are varied, but most commonly attorneys take depositions so that people are obligated to their record of events early on and are held accountable for their statements during trial, and to know that a person has found a workers lawyer you can trust. They are also taken to compare what the parties recollect to see if the stories match up. And sometimes attorneys take depositions so that they can have a “mock trial” for practice, so that when the client is up on the stand, the client knows what to expect.

When giving a deposition, the client is best off never making assumptions and only to state facts without intention. Saying things like “I don’t know” is preferable to making a guess. Once you have said something, whether you are guessing or not, it is considered a fact in the case and it can affect your time on the stand. If you don’t understand the question being asked or are unsure of why you are being questioned, it is always best to inquire and have the attorney clarify exactly what they are asking before you answer in any recorded statement that you make.

 

Written discovery

Written discoveries are interrogatories where a client writes down their recount of an event or answers a question in writing. They are a version of facts that can be used in the trial setting. Questions can be in the form of open-ended inquiries to a simple yes or no. They are strictly factual statements and are not open to interpretation.

An auto accident attorney will find that often written discovery involves a request that a defendant admit to something directly like “did you do it.” Written discovery carries certain irrefutable statements and can be one of the most powerful tools introduced during trial. If you are going to put anything in writing, it is imperative that you consider the consequences of your statements.

Discovery is a way that the justice system is able to speed up the time that it takes to conduct a trial. If both parties were going into the courtroom blind, it would be a mess of trying to find facts, counter them and figure out what is right and how to combat what is being presented.

 

02.09.11

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Suits

Posted in Legal Terms at 3:44 pm by kevin

The term “statute of limitations” refers to a law dictating the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit after an incident occurs. Essentially a statute of limitations prevents someone from suing another person for an event that took place long ago.

After the time period is up, the victim has basically given up his right to recover monetary compensation. For personal injury suits, that is, those alleging wrongdoing on the part of the defendant which caused personal harm to the plaintiff, the statute of limitations can range from one to six years, depending upon the state in which the incident occurred.

Stipulations

• Discovery of Harm- The “discovery of harm” provision mandates that the statute of limitations does not apply until after the person realizes, or “discovers” that he or she has been harmed. For example, if a person is in a car accident and does not begin having back pain until six months after the incident, the statute of limitations does not begin on the day of the injury, but on the day that the harm has been discovered—in this case, six months later. Granted, the victim will have to prove that the back pain was a result of the car accident, and not some other injury or medical reason.

• Minors- If the victim in a personal injury suit is a minor, the statute of limitations does not begin until the individual’s eighteenth birthday. This stipulation protects the legal rights of children who may not know the law, or how to seek legal help, until long after the incident has taken place.

• Type of Injury-The statute of limitations may fluctuate depending upon what type of injury was inflicted. For example, a defamation case may have a different statute of limitations than a medical malpractice case. The laws regarding different types of injuries and the length of time you have to pursue a case change from state to state and over time as well, so your best bet is to seek counsel.

• Extensions- The statute of limitation can be extended in any personal injury case if extenuating circumstances exist. For instance, if the victim is incapacitated in any way due to the injury and cannot make legal decisions on his own, then the statute of limitations will not go into effect until after the individual recovers enough to pursue a suit. Other reasons that a statute might be extended, or “tolled,” in a case include a defendant’s financial status (such as bankruptcy) and cases in which the victim is deemed mentally incompetent.

Since laws often change, sometimes overnight, you need to seek legal assistance from a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the statute of limitations in your state. He or she can advise you as to exactly what your rights are. Despite the need for legal counsel, the statute of limitations is really about common sense—if you’ve been hurt in an accident or during a medical procedure, and you believe it was someone else’s fault, act right away. Don’t wait until it’s too late to receive the compensation you deserve.