The Discovery Phase of a Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawsuit

In certain situations, a lawsuit must be filed in a Massachusetts personal injury case. This may happen whether the personal injury case involves a car, truck, or motorcycle accident or a slip and fall incident. There are several reasons why a lawsuit is filed.  But, in all lawsuits filed in Massachusetts, after the lawsuit is filed the parties involved (plaintiff & defendant) begin discovery.  Discovery is a phase of litigation that is used to investigate the facts of a case. Parties to the lawsuit use the discovery tools of litigation to obtain evidence and witness information to help support or defend their position in the case. Discovery is very important and can provide strength to a case or shed light on weaknesses.  

The discovery process can take months to years to complete depending on the complexity of the case and volume of evidence.  In Massachusetts, lawsuits are governed by our General Laws and Rules of Civil Procedure.  These Rules provide several discovery tools that parties to a lawsuit can use to obtain information and evidence of their case.  The discovery tools include depositions, interrogatories, and requests for production of document.

What are Depositions?

Depositions are sworn statements given by parties or witnesses to a lawsuit under oath. The purpose of a deposition is to learn facts about the case. They are usually held at a lawyer’s office and recorded and transcribed by an official court reporter.  An attorney will examine, or ask questions, of a witness or the other party to the case for investigative purposes.

For example, in a lawsuit where a person was injured in a car accident, the plaintiff may want to depose a witness, who saw the crash.  This way, the plaintiff’s attorney will know what the witness saw and if their testimony is favorable or harmful to the plaintiff’s case.

A deposition has the power to lock people to their story of what happened, see what the other party or side has for evidence, and observe how a witness will appear and act while at trial.    The record (transcription of the deposition) is used by attorneys to reference the examination later and help prepare for trial. 

What are Interrogatories?

Interrogatories are written questions asked by parties to a lawsuit of the other party.  The answers or objections to the written questions must be answered in writing and under oath.   Similar to depositions, interrogatories are used to obtain information and evidence from the other party to the lawsuit.  The questions can range from broad (How did the accident happen?”) to specific (Please provide the approximate speed of your vehicle just before the accident.”).  The Massachusetts Rules for Civil Procedure set time limits for when interrogatories must be answered.  They must be answered within 45 days of their receipt.

What is a Request for Production of Documents?

A request for production of documents is another method of discovery allowed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure.  A party to a lawsuit (either the plaintiff or the defendant) can serve the other party with a written request to produce certain documents. The requests are usually for evidence related to the case, but can also be for other documents that pertain to relevant issues involved in the case.  Some examples of common documents requested include:  photographs, police/crash reports, medical records, and medical bills. Similar to interrogatories, the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure set a time limit on when the documents must be produced to the requesting party.

As you can see, discovery in lawsuits can be complex and very involved.  Some cases have numerous depositions and a lot of document requests and interrogatories.  This is why, if you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, you should consult with an experienced trial lawyer.  A personal injury attorney that has little or no litigation experience may not be the best choice for your case if a lawsuit needs to be filed and litigated. 

As experienced personal injury attorneys, Joe Mahaney & Chuck Pappas, have successfully litigated hundreds of cases. Mahaney & Pappas are, first and foremost, trial lawyers, who have successfully litigted numerous cases in all major courts throughout Massachusetts. The results speak for themselves. If an insurance company has denied your claim and you want an expert review of your case, or need some information about a personal injury matter, feel free to contact us, or call (508) 879-3500 today. We are happy to speak with you.