This is the next post in a series of articles discussing the litigation process following a car accident. My previous post discussed how prolonged settlement negotiations can delay lawsuits after a car wreck. Particularly in serious injury cases, evaluating the victim’s long-term medical needs and the impact the accident will have in the future can be time-consuming. Rather than filing a case right away, victims are generally better served by a robust settlement negotiation process beforehand. This article will focus on an important pretrial element of car accident litigation – the discovery process. This phase of the case involves specific deadlines, filing requirements, and rules of procedure and evidence. A lawyer who is knowledgeable about the litigation process will be familiar with these rules and prepared to use discovery to gather valuable evidence to support your position. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, contact my office to schedule a consultation.
After a lawsuit is filed, attorneys for both sides engage in discovery, which is the process by which the parties gather evidence from outside sources in support of their respective arguments. For instance, lawyers may submit written questions, or interrogatories, to parties who may have information about the accident. Recipients, such as police or other witnesses, are required to provide written responses to the questions. Attorneys for either party may conduct depositions, or formal interviews with witnesses, at which they provide testimony under oath. Individuals or entities may be required to produce other types of tangible evidence such as documents, text messages, or GPS reports in response to requests for production or subpoenas. This information can be especially useful in car accident cases where the liability of the defendant is in dispute. Unlike trials seen in the movies and on television, the evidence used during a trial is methodically gathered through discovery and shared with each party in advance. Lawyers do not win a case by surprising the courtroom with last-minute information. It is important, therefore, to take full advantage of the discovery tools available.
Consider the following example. A serious crash occurs late at night with no witnesses. Both parties suffer serious injuries. Driver 1 claims that Driver 2 was driving erratically and swerved across the centerline causing the accident. Driver 2 disputes this claim and argues that Driver 1 was speeding at the time, leading to the accident. Through the discovery process, Driver 1’s attorney requests the production of Driver 2’s GPS data, cell phone records, and text message records. The GPS information reveals that Driver 2 recorded high rates of speed and evidence of swerving leading up to the crash. The phone and text records indicate that he was texting and talking leading up to and at the time of the incident. This objective data, gathered through the discovery process, may be sufficient for a jury to determine that Driver 2 was responsible for the incident. Given that there were no other witnesses to the event, the evidence obtained through discovery was invaluable to Driver 1’s case. It is important to note that the outcome of any case will be dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances surrounding each accident.
It is essential to retain counsel with litigation experience and a track record of using the discovery process effectively on their clients’ behalf. If you need assistance, contact our Peoria, Illinois office to speak with an attorney. We also serve clients in the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington.