Most car accident claims settle without the need for a jury trial. However, in many cases, someone has to file a lawsuit before an insurance company for a negligent driver offers a reasonable settlement. Proper financial restitution may be the only way an accident victim fully recovers from his or her injuries.
An important—and lengthy—part of the litigation process in these cases is the discovery phase.
What Is Discovery in an Auto Collision Case?
Discovery usually begins in car accident cases after a person files a civil complaint against the driver or entity responsible for the crash, and their insurance carrier files an answer to the complaint. In the discovery phase, the parties’ attorneys exchange documents and other information about the case.
Open disclosure of all pertinent case facts allows an accident victim and legal counsel to find evidence that helps prove the case, and also learn more about defenses against the claim.
Types of Discovery in Auto Wreck Cases
Car accident and personal injury cases have many kinds of discovery. Here are some standard options.
Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered under oath by the individual receiving them. Often this is one of the first actions in the discovery process. An accident victim’s attorney may use interrogatories to find out about insurance coverage, the carrier's investigation of the car accident, expert witnesses that the other side will use, and additional helpful information.
The insurance company may ask for basic details about the victim, such as age, address, and place of employment, as well as injuries sustained in the accident, necessary medical treatments, time off from work, witness statements, and other preliminary information.
Request for production of documents
This enables an attorney to obtain documents from the other party. Some of the information requested includes a police report, insurance policies, medical bills, expert witness reports, photographs and videos of the accident, and witness statements.
Request for admissions
A request for admissions is a less common type of discovery. However, it can be used to zero in on the disputed facts of a case. The party sending them asks the other party to admit certain facts, such as the amount of insurance coverage; the date, place, and time of the accident; and other information that shouldn't be contested. If the other party denies the request, he or she may be required to pay the attorney fees associated with proving this fact.
In order to obtain documents from businesses or other organizations that aren't parties in the lawsuit, an attorney may need to issue a subpoena that orders them to provide this information. Wage loss records and medical records are examples of documents that may have to be subpoenaed in these cases.
Depositions are one of the most important types of discovery used in car accident lawsuits. They're a Q & A session between an attorney for the victim or insurance company and the person deposed, who must answer under oath. A court reporter transcribes the session, and this written transcript can be used at a jury trial and other court proceedings.
Depositions are frequently taken of the parties to the accident, expert witnesses, and other witnesses to the crash. They're usually scheduled after legal counsel receives the answers to the interrogatories and requests for production of documents.
Independent medical examination
When someone suffers injuries in a collision, the insurance company’s attorney may ask the individual to submit to a medical exam. The carrier will likely choose the healthcare professional to conduct this examination, and possibly use him or her as an expert witness. The examiner issues a report outlining his findings, such as to the seriousness of the victim’s injuries and his future prognosis.
Have You Been Involved In A Motor Vehicle Accident?
If you've been involved in a motor vehicle accident you need to speak with an experienced accident injury attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.