Understanding a Request for Production of Documents in Personal Injury Cases
During pretrial discovery, both parties in a trial want access to all the evidence that is available so that they can build their argument. A few examples of items that can be requested can include photographs, documents, identity of a person, or electronically stored information.
When a request for production is received then it’s important to deliver the requested documents to the opposing party. Failure to do so could result in the evidence being excluded from the trial.
It is vital to hire an experienced personal injury attorney with Reich & Binstock to handle the discovery process during pretrial. We know the procedures and what is needed to build a strong case for you.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Rule 34
In the past lawyers would need to submit a court order to view the evidence of the opposing party. Now under federal rule 34 all that is needed is a request sent from one party to the other. If a party does not comply with the request, the other side can go to the judge and file a motion. The judge may grant that motion, and if the documents are not produced, then contempt of court can be imposed. Contempt can land a party in jail or with a hefty fine.
Rule 34 regulations and rules can vary by jurisdiction. It lays out the terms for requests for evidence. There are rules about the amount of time allotted for response and also the rules of objection. Most documents are common and a party will know to include these in the request for production. But in order to receive all evidence it’s important to know what to ask for from your opposition. Some things that are needed to fill in the blanks are hiding in emails, texts or even in a zoom meeting. Without the proper knowledge of discovery, someone may miss the chance to win their case before it even begins.
What Is the Discovery Process?
The process of discovery is used to collect the facts of the case each side has in their possession. There are three forms of discovery: written, oral and document production. During discovery, each party in a case has to produce the documents they plan to introduce into the record. They may also provide a written statement as to why certain documents listed cannot be produced.
There are tools that are used during discovery such as interrogatories, requests for admissions and depositions. They are all important for a party to dive deeper into the facts of the case.
Interrogatories: An interrogatory may include questions about the injury sustained. The other party may ask for details such as the extent of injuries or the name of the doctor that was seen. Dates and times can be asked as well. Generally, the other side is allowed 25 to 35 questions in an interrogatory.
Request for admission: A party can send a letter to the other side asking questions that can be denied, objected or admitted. Usually, these are in true or false form and are similar to interrogatories in their length. A judge may grant these requests to be amended or withdrawn.
Depositions: A court reporter will record the testimony of a witness during a deposition. Although their testimony isn’t taking place in a courtroom, it will be put into records later during trial. Both parties can use depositions as a preview of what the case will be on the day of court.
Sometimes cases are settled before they even make it into the courtroom. Because of the request of production, each side can see how strong or weak the other party’s evidence may be. This is why the discovery process is so vital in a trial.
What Is a Request for Production of Documents?
Someone involved in a legal matter has the right to be prepared for their trial by seeing evidence that’s going to be introduced to a judge or jury. It is the responsibility of both sides to produce documents they hold. A production of documents is a discovery device used to see inside the other side’s argument. The requesting party will use broad terms so that they can obtain as many items as possible.
There are other ways for documents to be delivered. Subpoena duces tecum can be granted by the court and a person that is not a party in the case will be sent a subpoena to bring certain documents to the court.
What Does a Request for Production of Documents Look Like?
A request for production of documents will be separate and numbered. It can include permission to go onto property or land that the party controls so that it can be surveyed or photographed. A request for physical things that are involved in the case may be included. Another request may be for electronically stored information such as recordings, photos, text messages or emails. Because an ESI request includes a variety of data, it’s important to know what a party should request. That’s where our experience at Reich & Binstock comes into play.
What Is the Purpose of a Request for Production?
The purpose of a request for production is for preparing a defense to the evidence that the other party plans to use to support their case. It is also important to make sure that the documents that are going to be used against a claim or for a claim are legitimate. This can take time to do, and when the other party is required to produce documents, it allows time before the trial to verify all items.
What to Ask for in a Production Request
When asking for documents there are many things that need to be covered. Generally, a party will ask for an original document but sometimes a copy can be used as long as it can be verified. It is important to use broad terms that will cover more than one document. If a car accident occurred, for example, insurance information and photos of the damage would be two separate requests.
A responding party does have the right to object to the request. If the document that they are objecting to is vital for your case you will need to file a motion with a judge. This means that hiring a lawyer can drastically make a difference in your case. At Reich and & Binstock we have the knowledge needed to collect large amounts of evidence with fewer requests.
Are There Exceptions to a Request for Production?
There are ways to object to a request for production. Some evidence may be privileged communication and not be admissible in court. This might include a doctor’s advice to a patient or spousal conversations. Self-incrimination may also be excluded.
Another exception may be that the request is too broad. If the request is not clear and overly broad it may be objected to. It may be unduly burdensome to gather the documents and the request may be objected to and upheld by the court.
Some documents may be destroyed and impossible to deliver. This is another exception that can be used when dealing with a request for production.
Can I Refuse a Request for Production?
You can object to a request for production but if you do not take any action on the document request at all you can face contempt of court. Contempt can carry jail time and fines. It is important to object to the request instead of ignoring it.
Objections can be ruled on by a judge. If you have a document that you do not want to release to the other party, you can object and cite a valid exception. If the other party does not respond then the document does not have to be released. However the other side can go to a judge and file a motion to compel discovery. The judge will grant or deny the request or possibly add parameters to the document request.
How Many Requests for Production Can I Submit?
Each state has its own discovery rules but most relate heavily to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. It is important to remember that a judge may rule that the requests submitted are unduly burdensome and can grant an objection should the other party file a motion.
As stated above a request of admission and interrogatories can be limited to 25 to 35 questions. Each one of these methods count as a request. In Texas there are different regulations involved in pretrial discovery and it’s important to use your requests wisely.
Should I Hire an Attorney for My Case?
A responding party to a request must file a written response within 30 days of the request. This is a very short amount of time for someone who is not a lawyer, especially if it is the first time involved in a personal injury case. The amount of information that will be gathered by the opposing party is overwhelming to take on alone. A judge will not allow someone to bypass legal procedures just because they do not know the law.
When the pretrial discovery is occurring it can be confusing for someone who has never been through depositions and interrogatories. An attorney will be by your side to ensure that you do not incriminate yourself or misrepresent your case.
Contact Reich & Binstock Today
The circumstances involved in your case can be overwhelming. At Reich & Binstock we care about our clients. We value the trust that they put into our firm. If you are facing a personal injury lawsuit call us today at 713-622-7271 for a free consultation.