When you first meet with your attorney after a car wreck, what do we know?
We know that you had an accident. Maybe a drunk driver crashed into your car, causing extensive damage and putting in you in the hospital for a week. Maybe a passenger was also injured.
We know what you can tell us about how the accident happened, but is that enough to win your case and get an insurance company to pay full compensation for your injuries? The discovery process is how we get all the information that we will need to negotiate a settlement for you or to take your case to trial.
What does discovery consist of? Is it done through the court or is it an informal process? How do we get the information that you will need to prove your case?
Informal Discovery in Auto Accident Cases - the Initial Investigation
Before we file suit in an auto accident case, we must investigate the crash to confirm that you have a valid claim and what type of claim (or claims) it will be.
The first, and possibly most important, source of information will be you and anyone else who was in the car with you at the time of the accident. In your initial meeting with your attorney, we will need to find out everything that you know about the accident including getting copies of any paperwork that you already have.
Other information we may look for during our initial investigation may include:
- The accident report, if you don't already have a copy at your initial meeting;
- Any incident reports, arrest warrants, and tickets if the other driver was charged with a crime or a traffic violation;
- Witness statements from any witnesses listed on the accident report or incident report;
- Other documents from the police department or clerk of court;
- Any information or documents provided by the insurance adjuster;
- A report prepared by an accident reconstructionist or other experts that we retain;
- Any reports generated by the SCHP MAIT team;
- Medical records and billing records from every facility where you received treatment; and
- Reports or evaluations provided by medical experts that we retain for consultation or trial testimony.
Depending on the facts of your case, we may proceed directly to filing your lawsuit. In other cases, we may negotiate with the insurance adjuster in an attempt to settle your case for full compensation before filing the lawsuit.
One the lawsuit has been filed, we can begin the "formal" discovery process through the courts.
The Discovery Process in Auto Accident Cases in SC Courts
Once we file the Complaint in your case, we will also serve discovery requests on the defendant. These "formal" discovery requests may include interrogatories, requests for production, and requests to admit.
Interrogatories are written questions that we submit to the defendant - they must be answered within 30 days, although it is common for the other side to request extensions.
Interrogatories are authorized by Rule 33 of the SC Rules of Civil Procedure (SCRCP), which also provides a list of "standard interrogatories" that can be asked in every case, although your attorney can include additional interrogatories that are specific to the claims and defenses of your case.
Responses to the interrogatories must be signed, in writing, and under oath, unless there is an objection - which must be signed by the other side's attorney.
Requests for Production
Requests for production are authorized by Rule 34 of the SCRCP, and they require the other side to produce (or allow you to inspect and copy):
- Electronically stored information;
- Audio recordings; or
- Compilations of data.
Requests for production can also be used to require the other side to allow us to inspect, copy, test, or sample any tangible things that are discoverable and in the possession of the defendant, and they can be used to require the other side to allow us to enter land or property for inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling of the property or anything that is on the property.
Requests to Admit
Requests for admission are a valuable tool that is often overlooked and underutilized. They are authorized by Rule 36 of the SCRCP.
They consist of a written request to admit the truth of any matters that are relevant to the claims or defenses in your case, including the genuineness of documents.
Unless the other side responds or objects to the request within 30 days, the court will consider it an admission for purposes of trial...
In addition to the written discovery requests, either side can compel witnesses to attend a deposition and answer questions, under oath, with a court reporter present.
Depositions are not permitted without court permission if the amount in controversy is less than $10,000, but they are standard in most other cases.
Just as we can force the other side to answer interrogatories, requests for production, requests to admit, and submit to questioning at a deposition, they will send the same or similar requests to you.
Your attorney will prepare your discovery responses after consulting with you, and we will object to any requests that are unreasonable or unrelated to the claims and defenses in your case.
We can also issue subpoenas to obtain documents or materials that are relevant to your case, or to obtain the testimony of witnesses at hearings or at the trial of your case.
What Happens if the Other Side Ignores Our Discovery Requests?
When the other side does not respond to our discovery requests, makes frivolous objections to our requests, or refuses to answer questions at a deposition, we will file a motion asking the court to force them to respond.
In some cases, the court can sanction the other side, requiring them to pay your attorney fees for the time that we had to spend preparing and arguing a motion to compel discovery... on the other hand, if you file a frivolous motion to compel, the court could order you to pay the other side's attorney fees...
By using the "informal" discovery methods above, as well as written discovery requests, depositions, and subpoenas, we are able to gather the evidence that we need to prove liability and damage for purposes of negotiations, mediation, and the trial of your case.
Your Myrtle Beach auto accident lawyer on the Axelrod team will help you to gather the evidence that you need to prove your case. If you have been injured in a car accident, call now at (843) 916-9300 or send us an email to talk with an accident attorney today.