This is the next post in a series of articles discussing wrongful death cases in Peoria, Illinois. My previous post reviewed the process of dealing with insurance companies after an accident occurs. In the wake of a tragic loss, communications with insurance adjusters can be intimidating and families may not know how to respond. Engaging a lawyer to represent you during this process can help survivors navigate difficult settlement negotiations. If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawsuit will be initiated and the case will proceed to a trial. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will engage in a process known as “discovery.” In this post, I will explain the importance of discovery and how your attorney will use this process to gather evidence in your case. If you need assistance, contact my office to speak with a lawyer.
Discovery is a legal tool available to lawyers after a lawsuit has been filed. It is used to gather evidence from various sources in support of their client’s case. Discovery is an essential phase of the legal process and can be extremely important to proving liability, refuting claims by the defense, and establishing damages in wrongful death cases. For instance, an attorney can file interrogatories, which are a series of written questions, and require the other side to provide written answers. Requests for Production may be used to acquire records, documents, and other physical objects. Depositions can be used to conduct interviews of witnesses and parties while they are under oath. Also, subpoenas may be used to acquire items in the possession of third parties who are not related to the case.
There are a variety of ways discovery can impact a wrongful death action. Consider the following example. A woman riding a bicycle is struck and killed in a car accident. The driver appears to have been abiding by all traffic laws and claims that the cyclists swerved in front of their car without warning. The defendant’s attorney argues that the cyclist was more at fault than the driver and therefore, the survivors are not entitled to any compensation under Illinois’ comparative fault laws. After her family files a lawsuit against the driver, the attorney requests the production of the driver’s phone and text records. These reveal that the driver was actively texting at the time of the crash establishing that the driver was distracted. The attorney deposes three individuals who witnessed the event. All three believe the driver may have been speeding and dispute the driver’s claim that the victim swerved. Finally, the attorney issues a subpoena for security camera footage captured by a nearby gas station on the date of the crash. The footage clearly proves that the cyclist did not swerve and was following all traffic rules. Under this scenario, the jury may determine that the driver was 100% responsible for the cyclist’s death. How a jury will rule will depend upon the specific facts of each case.
It is important to understand that evidence is gathered and presented methodically before and during the trial process. Unlike television and movie portrayals, trials do not involve attorneys revealing last-minute, surprise evidence. A lawyer with experience in wrongful death trials will understand the importance of discovery and how to use the process to develop each piece of evidence in support of your case. If you need assistance in a wrongful death matter, contact my office today to speak to a Peoria lawyer. Our firm also serves clients in the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington.