Attorneys, detectives, and other investigators spend this time collecting evidence, witness depositions, expert testimonials, and everything else they need to prove that their side is correct. Then, once they’ve each built up a decent amount of material, each side allows the other to see or “discover” their collected evidence. This gives both sides the opportunity to collect more evidence to counter their opponents, and after that the cycle begins again.
The surprise witness or piece of evidence is a classic feature of courtroom dramas. There’s nothing like an unexpected swerve to get you invested in the plot and keep you guessing as to what happens next, after all.
However, dramatic twists are a lot less fun when someone’s life or livelihood is on the line, and the discovery process came about precisely to avoid the idea of surprises in the courtroom. After all, even the best attorney in the world can’t do much if he or she doesn’t understand the science behind a piece of physical evidence, or if he or she can’t explain why a document is circumstantial because he or she hasn’t read it.
As such, both sides are required to provide each other with everything which may be in any way relevant to the case, and often this includes confidential and secret information. Things can get complicated when it comes to presenting this information in open court, but in general both attorneys and the jury are allowed to see confidential information.
A Witness On Paper
Things get particularly interesting when it comes to witness accounts. During the discovery process, attorneys will interview their witnesses and write down the result as depositions, and the opposition attorney will then have access to both the depositions and the witnesses themselves, although witnesses have the right to have a personal attorney present while answering questions.
Generally speaking, whether you’re the plaintiff, the defendant, or whether you just got roped into someone else’s court case, there are a few things to remember when you’re answering questions:
- • Spoken depositions and written interrogatories are considered under oath. That means you have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If you’re caught lying – and the chances of that are pretty high – you may be held in contempt of court and fined. Plus if you are the defendant or the plaintiff, it won’t look good for your side when the other attorney uses your lie against you.
- • You may have to answer a lot of personal questions that don’t have much to do with the case. Establishing a person’s character can be an effective way to sway a jury, and often that means that your opponent will be working to dig up any and all skeletons in your closet.
- • Tell nothing but the truth. Don’t guess and don’t bother trying to explain yourself or explain another person’s actions. If it’s important, the other attorney will do that for you, and if you don’t let that happen you could wind up interfering in the case or else end up looking bad yourself.
The discovery process can be time-consuming and expensive, but it’s necessary to allow both sides to build up the best case they can before the trial starts for real. It could even lead to the discovery of overwhelming evidence that causes the other side to settle out of court, leaving everyone just a bit happier than if it had gone all the way to the jury.
If you live in southwest Florida and you’re in need of some expert legal advice, feel free to contact All Injuries Law Firm for a free case evaluation. Whether your case needs years of preparation or if you just need a lawyer around to show someone you’re serious, we’re ready and able to do everything in our power to get you the best possible result for your civil case.