Before an injured party (the “plaintiff”) in an automobile accident files a personal injury against a driver who caused personal injury to the plaintiff, the victim has the chance – often through his or her personal injury attorney – to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company covering the at-fault driver. As part of this process, the attorney – or client – presents or gives the insurance company authority to obtain all of the medical records and bills associated with the injured party’s medical treatment. So by the time settlement negotiations break down and the case gets to court, the insurance company –and by extension its defense counsel – already possess a great deal of documentation relevant to the case.
After the case is filed, the parties will exchange mandatory pleadings establishing the issues in the case. Then the discovery period commences. Besides oral depositions, this phase affords each party the chance to submit written questions, or interrogatories, to the other party to find out certain specific pieces of information. It also allows for the request for production of documents by the other party or third parties. During this segment of time – usually six months in duration– under New Mexico civil procedure rules, the plaintiff and/or his or her legal counsel should make sure they take advantage of the limited opportunity to obtain important information about the case from the other side.
Among the many things a personal injury attorney may seek to discover is whether the insurance company has retained any physicians or other medical experts to review the medical diagnoses of the plaintiff and whether any such witnesses issued any reports on their findings. Where the alleged at-fault party (or “defendant”) may have been drunk during the motor vehicle accident, documents should be requested from any responding law enforcement authorities including police reports, breathalyzer results, blood results or other documents bearing on the issue of the defendant’s intoxication at the time of the incident.
These are just a couple of examples where the use of interrogatories and requests for production of documents in personal injury cases are vital to the proper handling of a case. While the depositions which usually follow the exchange of interrogatories and document requests will often be the events where testimony critical to the case is elicited, the groundwork is laid earlier by use of these written discovery tools. Just because the parties may exchange significant documentation during pre-litigation settlement discussions does not render this early part of the discovery phase irrelevant or of modest import to a case’s outcome.
The lawyers at Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. represent injured individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico, including those caused by motor vehicle accidents. Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at giddenslaw.com for more information