What is discovery and why is it necessary?
If you are the plaintiff in a case, you have the burden to prove your case by stronger evidence than the other side. If you are a defendant in a case, you have to raise enough doubt about the strength of the plaintiff’s case to make the judge (or jury) decide your side is stronger.
Discovery is how you gather the evidence you will need to prove your case as plaintiff, or defeat the plaintiff’s case as a defendant. You use discovery to find out things like:
What the other side plans to say about an issue in your case
What facts or witnesses support their side
What facts or witnesses support your side
What information or documents could be used as evidence
Request evidence and information from the other side
To get information from the other side and use it as part of your trial, you must follow court rules and ask for information and documents in writing, using a specific format. Some forms of discovery are relatively easy to do and involve using court forms with standard questions. Others are more difficult and benefit from getting assistance from a lawyer.
Another way you can get information from the other side is to have them give sworn testimony outside of court (before the trial) in a deposition.
There are other types of discovery as well, such as requests for physical (medical) or psychiatric examination. These can be complex and expensive. You can get more information about these types of discovery from a lawyer or law library.
Request evidence and testimony from individuals who are not involved in the lawsuit
As part of discovery, sometimes you need to have an individual (or company) who is not a party to the case produce documents or business records. To do this, you use a subpoena.
You may receive requests for discovery from the other side
As part of the lawsuit, the other side may send you request for information or evidence. If this happens, you have specific requirements and deadlines for responding.