What is Discovery in a Civil Case?
If you have ever been a party to a civil lawsuit, you know that discovery can be quite time-consuming. Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party investigates the facts of a case, through the rules of civil procedure, by obtaining evidence from the opposing party and others by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents and things, requests for admissions, and depositions.
Under the laws of the United States, civil discovery is broadly construed and parties to a civil action can ask for virtually any material which is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Requests for Admissions
Just as the name implies, requests for admissions ask another party to admit or deny certain carefully worded questions. For example, one party may ask the other to admit certain specific facts related to a car accident that would tend to prove that party's liability.
Unlike requests for admissions, interrogatories ask open ended questions. For example, one may ask the other party to identify all evidence upon which they intend to rely in support of their claims or defenses. Interrogatories can become quite complex with multiple sub-parts, so most states limit the number of interrogatories either party can ask the other.
Requests for Production
Arguably one of the most useful tools for discovery, requests for production allow one party to ask the other to provide documents or other tangible evidence, including electronically stored information.
Depositions are the process of taking live testimony from witnesses and parties before trial. The witness or party is required to appear and testify under oath before a court reporter who records the entire proceeding.