Anyone who gets injured as a result of the negligent act of another person can sue that person for the damages suffered. Depending on the nature and extent of the wounds, a substantial amount may be awarded as compensation. Payment is not automatic though, as the claim must undergo a process wherein both parties are given ample time to present and defend their case. Every personal injury claim begins with the discovery phase.
The discovery phase is an essential part of the claim process. It is the initiatory stage where both parties start to build the foundation of their versions of the story. Its importance cannot be over emphasized; a good start can make or break your personal injury claim.
Immediately after the filing of a personal injury lawsuit, the parties must gather all the necessary and relevant information they can. This will invariably include: documentary, testimonial, and object evidence. Documentary evidence pertains to anything written or expressed through symbols. Receipts, police reports, and medical certificates are useful documents in proving personal injury claims. Testimonial evidence on the other hand refers to statements made by witnesses.
When witnesses are not available for interview, their statements can be put into writing and can be taken into consideration by the court in the resolution of the case. Lastly, object evidence is evidence which appeals to the senses. These are tangible items that can be observed through the five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Object evidence is effective in showing the degree of injury or damage.
At the discovery phase, it is compulsory for the parties to exchange basic information such as names of witnesses, records and documents, pictures, special reports, hospital records, and other similar evidence. This will prevent any party from gaining undue advantage against the other. Preventing surprises during trial is discouraged by the court as it induces litigants to abuse technical rules. Justice and fair play requires that both parties settle the case on equal footing. This is the only way to ensure that the truth will prevail.
The discovery phase may last for months depending on the complexity of the case. Once the parties to the case think that they have gathered sufficient evidence to prove their claims, they can move on to the next stage. However, when one party believes that it has not yet gathered enough evidence, it can ask the court for an extension. The court will generally grant extensions on meritorious and for valid reasons.
In case one party believes that they don’t have sufficient knowledge regarding the circumstances surrounding the case, they can resort to depositions. This means they can question the other party regarding matters, which are included in the initiatory complaint. This remedy is usually availed of when the information in the initiatory pleadings is vague so that the adverse party cannot formulate a defense. Discovery proceedings will afford the other party a fair chance to rebut any argument posed by the claimant. Matters such as the place, time, and date of the incident are common subjects of discovery methods. The discovery phase must, however, be limited to clarificatory questions. It cannot be used to obtain matters which are properly discussed at other stages of the litigation.