In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Fact Finding: How the Discovery Process Works
One of the defining characteristics of the American legal system is the principle that, through the course of a personal injury lawsuit, there should be as few surprises as possible. Starting in the late 1940’s, the federal judicial system has required both parties in a suit to disclose all relevant documents and facts to the opposing side prior to the start of a trial. Nearly all states in the Union have followed the federal government’s lead in this matter. The process of disclosure is referred to as “discovery”. Discovery assumes three primary forms: depositions, document production, and written discovery.
Defining the Deposition
In its most basic definition, a deposition is defined as a sworn statement in which a party answers questions from a lawyer while under oath. A court reporter creates a record of all statements made in a transcript. Depending upon the complexity of a personal injury lawsuit, a deposition may take as little as one hour or as long as one week. Although each personal injury lawyer will have their own strategy for how to take a deposition, there are three primary reasons why depositions are performed: 1) to “lock” a person into their story, 2) to discover what the opposition has to say, and 3) to conduct a “practice trial” to determine how will conduct themselves and appear in front of a jury or judge.
During a deposition, your personal injury lawyer will instruct you on how to act, but there are two important elements to remember. First and foremost, one should never guess. The primary purpose of a deposition is to obtain the facts – not to speculate. There will be certain scenarios in which “I don’t know” is the correct answer. Secondly, it is simply human nature to wish to explain things in a manner that listener understands; however, this impulse should be resisted. It is the job of the opposition to obtain answers. It is the job of the person being disposed to simply answer the question being asked, not to provide additional information.
Explaining Document Production
The process of document production is fairly straightforward. Each party possesses the legal right to view all documents that could be remotely related to their personal injury lawsuit. Especially in complex cases involving product defects or medical malpractice, the sheer amount of documents involved can be significant. Many New Hampshire courts now allow for computer files to be included in the discovery process, and in scenarios where the stakes are high enough to justify the action, the courts have enabled litigants to reconstruct specific deleted files, such as sent or received emails. However, this practice is not yet that common.
Written Discovery: Requests For Admission and Interrogatories
An interrogatory is defined as a series of questions designed to elicit a party’s version of their claims and the facts. Interrogatories may assume a pre-printed form, or they could be specially selected questions tailored specifically for a single case. These are called special interrogatories. Questions may be specific or broad. If a party’s questions are difficult to understand or are not fair, then the party’s New Hampshire personal injury lawyer can object to the line of questioning.
In written discovery for personal injury claims, requests for admission are somewhat rare, but they can be a valuable tool. A party is asked to deny or admit specific facts in regards to the case at hand, and there are certain penalties associated with refusing to answer them or even for providing late answers.
What You Should Remember About Discovery
§ Bear in mind that it is quite likely that the truth will be uncovered at some point during the discovery process.
§ It is imperative for each party involved in a personal injury lawsuit to be 100% honest with their NH lawyer about the documents and facts that could be uncovered during the discovery process. If all relevant facts are not disclosed, even the best attorney will not know the appropriate course of action to follow to deal with these events.
§ The discovery process can be slow, lengthy, intrusive, expensive, and often frustrating. Before a victim decides to initiate a personal injury lawsuit, he or she must decide if they are willing to have their personal life open to this type of scrutiny.
§ Be completely honest. Nothing will cause a plaintiff to lose a lawsuit more quickly than to be caught lying during the discovery process. If a person is intentionally dishonest, there is a significant chance that he or she will be caught.
The plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit will be asked information during the discovery process that they are required by New Hampshire state law to answer. The information sought by the defense during discovery must be calculated to lead to any relevant discoveries. This broad standard enables even the most mundane information to be deemed “discoverable”, including personal details and medical histories. In personal injury suits involving loss of consortium, this can even include questions about a plaintiff’s sexual life with their partner. Answers to these questions and relevant documents will be displayed as evidence during a trial. This is one of many reasons why it is imperative for a plaintiff to retain the services of an experienced New Hampshire personal injury lawyer.
New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorneys
If you are planning on filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state of New Hampshire, please contact our law offices today. It is our pledge to our clients to conduct a discovery process on their behalf that will assist in the preparation of their case and to prevent any lines of questioning that are not relevant to the process in order to protect our clients.
Your initial consultation is free, and our experienced NH personal injury lawyers will provide you with an honest assessment of your case and recommend an appropriate course of action. Time is of the essence in personal injury cases, so please do not delay.
Serving all of New Hampshire. Offices in Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth.
This site does not constitute legal advice. An attorney client relationship is formed only after an agreement is entered into between an Attorney of Liberty Legal and a client is reached. Past results do not guarantee future results.
Disclaimer: Some cases are referred to other law firms with consent of client.
Liberty Legal Services PLLC. Main office: 250 Commercial St #3020 Manchester NH 03101. (603) 262-3196