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Medical Malpractice FAQ: What Is Discovery?

For many of our clients, their medical malpractice case represents their first encounter with the California legal system. Therefore, we think it is important to explain how the process works and what clients can expect along the way.

The process of “discovery” is an important part of almost all civil cases. After a lawsuit is filed, the parties are obligated to exchange certain information and evidence through an investigation process known as discovery. The process is largely conducted outside the courtroom.

During discovery, we will seek information and evidence from the defendant as well as witnesses and others who might have information relevant to your case. The parties are also required to share information regarding their medical experts.

Discovery can take many forms, including written interrogatories, requests for production of documents, deposition, either oral or through written statements, request for examination, request for inspection of evidence, requests for admission, and independent medical examinations. The four most common types of discovery are detailed below:

  • Depositions. A deposition involves face-to-face questioning under oath. The parties and witnesses may be deposed. The deposition is attended by a court reporter, who will officially record the answers. If the deponent cannot testify at trial, the deposition testimony can be read to the jury instead. In addition, if the witness’s testimony at trial differs from the testimony during the deposition, the record can be used to show the jury that the witness changed his story.
  • Requests for production of evidence. When making a request for production of evidence, one party asks the other for physical evidence related to the lawsuit. In most medical malpractice cases, the evidence requested is in the form of documents, such as medical records, medical bills, correspondence, etc.
  • Interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions one party sends to the other to be answered under oath. Like deposition testimony, answers can also be used at trial to reveal inconsistencies in the witness’s account of what happened.
  • Requests for admission. A request for admission asks the other party to admit, under oath, that certain facts are true or certain documents are authentic. This type of discovery allows both sides to narrow down the issues that are in dispute.

While discovery may seem like a daunting process, as lawyers, it is something we do every day. We will walk you through the process and make sure your rights are protected every step of the way.

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.