Discovery is the phase of a medical malpractice lawsuit where the parties get information, documents, and materials from each other. Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, parties don’t have a choice about responding. While some hospitals and doctors try to stonewall patients seeking information, once a lawsuit is filed it’s a different story.
Written discovery typically starts with requests for disclosure, which require each side to produce standard information, including relevant medical and billing records and documentation showing medical malpractice insurance policy limits. A party isn’t allowed to object to a request for disclosure.
Written discovery also includes other legal instruments. Defendants sometimes try to delay things by responding with objections or assertions of privileges. Plaintiffs can handle this by filing a motion to compel. Courts frown on discovery games, so the mere threat of a motion to compel typically encourages defendants to become more reasonable.
Interrogatories are questions that the other side must answer under oath.
Requests for admission are designed to narrow the issues of the lawsuit by requiring a defendant to admit or deny certain facts.
Requests for production require the other side to produce specific documents, including things that are electronically stored.
Hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney really pays off for plaintiffs in the written discovery phase of a lawsuit. Interrogatories and requests must be specific and reasonably tailored in order to get the information and documents that you need. An experienced lawyer knows the types of information, documentation, and data to ask for, and has insight on when defendants hide something that they should turn over.
Oral depositions and depositions on written questions are other tools available in the discovery process, and can be served on parties to the lawsuit, as well as individuals or companies that aren’t a party to the lawsuit. Oral depositions are typically held at an attorney’s office, where a court reporter swears in the witness and attorneys ask questions under oath. Depositions on written questions are typically used to require non-parties to produce certified copies of medical, billing, and other records.
Under Texas law, licensed attorneys have subpoena power in pending lawsuits, which means that they can command non-parties to produce documents or appear at deposition under the name and authority of the State of Texas. This is sometimes necessary when non-parties aren’t cooperative.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.