Steps in a Lawsuit: Examinations for Discovery

Examinations for discovery, commonly referred to as simply discoveries, allow one party or their lawyer to question the other party under oath about matters at issue in the lawsuit. Short of a trial, this is probably the most intense and important part of a lawsuit for parties.

Discoveries are done for several reasons. First, they are an information-gathering exercise. Up to this point, much of what one party knows about another is limited to what’s contained in the documents that have been exchanged between the parties. These often don’t illuminate the entire picture and questions naturally arise out of these documents. Second, discoveries are a great opportunity to get admissions out of a party. Admissions are things that, generally, help one party and hurt another. Finally, discoveries give the examining party a chance to see what kind of witness the party being examined would be if the case proceeded to trial. Does the party seem credible? Reliable? Likeable? All these things are relevant to how the lawsuit proceeds going forward.

While answering questions might sound easy, there are several things that parties being examined should keep in mind. First, because the discovery is done under oath, it is critically important to tell the truth and be as accurate as possible. This is so because a party who says one thing at a discovery then says a completely different thing at trial can have their credibility impeached. Second and as a corollary, the party being examined should ensure they understand the question being asked. If a party doesn’t understand the question, they risk giving an inaccurate answer that could later be used them at trial.

There are many other tips that a party being examined needs to remember before proceeding to a discovery. Overall, it requires a great deal of thoughtfulness and should not be approached lightly.