Understanding the Professional Liability Claim Process: Part 3, The Discovery Process
The legal process is complex and can be difficult to understand. This series of articles is intended to give you a basic knowledge of how the process works so that if you’re ever faced with a malpractice claim, you will be better able to approach the situation.
In Part 3 of our series, we discuss the “discovery” process.
Part 3: The Discovery Process
After you receive a summons and complaint and you’ve obtained an attorney (or one has been assigned to you if you’re insured in the Lockton program), the attorneys from each side of the case will begin what is called the discovery process, often simply referred to as “discovery.”
In discovery, each attorney is permitted to ask the other side questions as a way to uncover answers that will either help to prove or defend their case. Discovery questions come in the form of:
Interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions that are filed with the court. Your attorney will generally ask you the questions and then respond in writing in a fashion that is legally prudent.
Production of Documents. In this form of discovery, the other side will ask you to produce all documents pertaining to the events related to the case. Your attorney will review the questions and produce only the documents that the other side has a right to see. The other side will not be allowed to examine all documents as some are considered privileged, or are irrelevant to the case. Your attorney will advise you as to which documents you’ll need to produce.
Depositions. A deposition is a formal proceeding where an attorney will ask witnesses, who are under oath, questions as a means to “discover” the truth. Although not conducted at the courthouse, the questions and answers are recorded by a court reporter. A deposition is also meant to help prevent a witness from changing his or her story later at trial, because all answers are officially recorded.
Generally, depositions begin after the parties involved have completed the interrogatories and document requests. At this point, the attorneys have a basis for asking the questions of the witnesses at the deposition.
Expert Discovery. In this phase of discovery, the attorneys ask questions of the other side’s medical experts with the hopes of discrediting those experts. Discovery of experts includes interrogatories, production of documents and depositions as well.
After the discovery process is completed by both sides, the case is ready to go to trial.
Part 4 of our series will cover what a defendant can expect when giving a deposition.
Our article series on understanding the legal process includes these informative topics:
Part 1: License/Certification Scrutiny
Part 3: What is the discovery process?