A common question that many people have about the litigation process is “why do lawsuits take so long to get resolved?” After all, most people probably think that if you have enough information to justify filing a lawsuit, then the facts should be quite clear. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes, more information is needed even after a lawsuit is filed. That is when the “discovery” process comes into play.
“Discovery” is the legal term for the process where both sides share information before a case proceeds to trial. In many cases, the process is used by both sides to gather more information to support their respective claims. In other cases, discovery is used to confirm what is already, for the most part, known. Much of the discovery process includes questions that lead to answers given under oath. The presumption is that parties will be truthful in litigation.
Although there may be general conversations between the attorneys representing the opposing sides in a lawsuit about the facts of the case, the discovery process is usually more formal. The sides will usually exchange written requests for the production of key documents, for example, or even written questions known as “interrogatories” that the other side must answer. The parties can even exchange a list of statements and ask that the other party admit or deny those statements – known as “requests for admissions.”
Lastly, perhaps the most time-consuming and crucial part of the discovery phase of a lawsuit is what is known as “depositions.” Many of our readers have probably heard of depositions. In a deposition, a witness is called and their testimony is recorded. It is much like giving testimony in court, except a deposition is usually done in a conference room, for example, and only the attorneys, their clients, and the witness in question are present, in addition to a deposition recorder.
In all, depositions and written discovery requests can form the heart of a lawsuit, and are the reason that sometimes it takes a while for a case to be resolved. Engaging in thorough and thoughtful discovery can be key to succeeding at trial or resolving a case through negotiation. Therefore, those who are about to embark on a path toward litigation should consider doing so with the assistance of a skilled attorney.