The discovery phase in a lawsuit is the formal process for attorneys to obtain important information about the case. In a personal injury claim, medical records and medical records analysis become important considerations during discovery. The hospital or healthcare facility where the plaintiff received medical treatment will have the relevant medical records as well as information regarding the cost of the care provided. The discovery process enables both the plaintiff and defense sides to gather all data relevant to the case, and the information each party has. Discovery is intended to assist attorneys prepare the case and avoid any last-minute surprises. As the name indicates, important information that was not previously known or available is brought to light during this phase of the lawsuit.
Four Key Steps in the Discovery Process
The formal discovery process involves four key steps as discussed below.
- Interrogatories: The interrogatory is a set of written questions that are sent to the other party to answer. These are questions related to the accident or event that caused the injury. When an interrogatory is received from the opposite side, you have to answer the questions in writing and sign them in front of a notary public. If any documents are requested, those have to be provided.
Typically, information you need to provide include the following:
- Contact details
- Identity of expert witness(es) who will be called to testify
- Insurance coverage information and limits
- Identity of other witnesses who will be called in the case
- Details of the accident
- Identity of other parties who may share responsibility in the case
- Evidence that will be used in the case
- Details regarding medical services received, lost wages, and other claimed losses
Any information obtained after the answers are submitted must be updated immediately with the other side.
- Request for production of evidence: Here, one party will request the other to produce physical evidence related to the dispute. The evidence in this regard includes patient documents or medical records, contracts, employment files, real estate documents, billing records, police/accident reports, and so on. The medical bills and medical records help prove the cost and severity of the injury incurred. Sometimes, the attorney may request an independent medical examination to ensure that the injuries were caused by the particular accident/event and caused considerable loss.
- Request for admission: This is one party’s written factual statement served to the opposite party. The other party must admit, deny or object to the statement made. This response must be sent within 30 days. If the party fails to do so, their silence will be taken as a deemed admission. Admission requests are mostly made to narrow down what still needs to be explained and proven in further investigations.
- Depositions: In this procedure, one party/attorney engages in a face-to-face questioning of the opposing side, or a witness to the case. The deponent must answer under oath. These answers are all recorded and used in the future, if required.
Information That May Be Protected during Discovery
As mentioned at the outset, discovery is all about finding information relevant to the case, along with supporting evidence. Therefore, parties need to be truthful about what they are saying to avoid a negative impact on their claim.
There are some things that are protected from disclosure during discovery. These include confidential conversations, as those between husband and wife, doctor and patient, lawyer and client, and religious advisor and devotee.
Private or personal matters should also remain private. The right to privacy protects the person from having to reveal information that may not be directly relevant to the lawsuit. These include health issues, spiritual beliefs, and immediate family relationships. Usually, third parties’ privacy is protected and often courts may put a limit on what can be extracted from a third party who is not involved in the lawsuit such as witnesses, family members of a party, and co-workers. Discovery information may be kept confidential and not revealed to the public. For this, a judge must order that the information be kept confidential via a protective order.
The Services of a Medical Review Company Is Valuable during Discovery
A medical record review company provides valuable assistance to attorneys during the discovery stage. One of the most important factors in a personal injury case is the medical information and medical records. For the claim to be successful, the existence of an injury, its cause, and seriousness must be clearly established. A medical review company helps attorneys obtain, organize, manage and analyze the medical records. Employing the latest technology and a guided approach, a professional medical review team will provide the necessary assistance to extract all the medical information relevant to the case.