What to Expect at a Discovery Hearing

Edited by Admin

What to expect at a discovery hearing: learn more about how to prepare for this stage of your civil suit.


What to Expect at a Discovery Hearing

If you are bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the person responsible for your injuries, you will probably need to attend a discovery hearing. At a discovery hearing, the plaintiff (you) and the defendant (the person responsible for your injuries) will each provide sworn testimony. Lawyers for each side will ask questions, and a court reporter will record the proceedings. (This will be made available as a transcript.) The evidence given allows both sides to examine the details of the claim being made and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case.


In discovery, your lawyer can gather information and get the defendant’s side of the story on record. Your lawyer will have prepared detailed questions regarding the accident and will be able to assess how the defendant’s story will sound to the judge/jury if the case goes to trial. Similarly, the defendant’s lawyer will ask you questions about the accident and your injuries and will be able to assess how your testimony would be perceived at trial.


What It’s Like

A discovery hearing usually takes place in a boardroom around a big table. The court reporter often sits at the head of the table, between the two sides. The reporter will record everything that is said and mark exhibits. When you are being examined, you will sit across from the defendant’s lawyer; when the defendant is being examined, they will sit across from your lawyer. You may be present during the defendant’s examination, and they may be present during yours.


After you have sworn an oath to tell the truth, the defendant’s lawyer will ask you about events and facts pertaining to the case and may also ask you to examine certain documents and answer questions about them. The questions posed to you will often be specifically formulated to elicit information that can be damaging to your case. But even though the questions may be designed to undermine your case, the proceedings are almost always polite. You can give a full answer to any question that you are asked; you’re not limited to “yes” or “no.” Your lawyer may object to any question from the defendant’s lawyer that they feel is irrelevant or improper.


The length of a discovery hearing will depend on the complexity of the case. Your hearing might only last an hour, or it might take all day. There is usually a lunch break, but during breaks, you must refrain from discussing the case.


Dos and Don’ts for Discovery Hearings

Before your examination, go through your notes about the accident and refresh your memory regarding the facts of the incident, as well as the records of your medical treatment. Be sure to dress well and take extra care with grooming before the hearing. Your lawyer will help to prepare you for your discovery hearing. Remember to:

  • Tell the truth. You are under oath and have the same liability for perjury as if you were in court in front of a judge. Be honest and straightforward and do not attempt to lie or “fudge” the truth, as any discrepancies in your story will harm your case. If the case goes to trial and your testimony differs from what you said at the discovery hearing, this will be used to show that you are an unreliable witness.
  • Listen to the whole question. Don’t answer until the entire question has been asked, and if you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification before answering.
  • Think before you answer. Think before speaking and formulate a short and concise answer to what has been asked.
  • Don’t guess. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Never guess! Simply say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”
  • Avoid absolutes. Try not to use words like “never” and “always.” Although we often use them in conversation as a form of emphasis, if you say these words under oath, they will be taken literally.
  • Answers must be spoken. You cannot answer questions by nodding, shaking your head, shrugging, or saying “Uh-uh” or “Uh-huh.” You have to provide clear verbal answers for the court record. Don’t point to areas of your body while describing pain, for example, and never act out any event.
  • Objections. If your lawyer raises an objection while you are being questioned, stop talking immediately.
  • Demeanour. Sit up straight, remain calm and polite, and look the examiner in the eye when answering their questions. Don’t interrupt. Never allow yourself to be goaded into anger. Never argue with the defendant’s lawyer.

Discovery hearings can be stressful, but with proper preparation and a good personal injury lawyer on your side, the discovery hearing can help you to get fair compensation for your injuries. Contact Sokoloff Lawyers today and learn more about the process.