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What is Discovery?

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Created June 2012

Discovery is the way parties in a court case can gather information from each other. If a creditor takes you to court, you are the defendant, the creditor is the plaintiff. Both the plaintiff and defendant are “parties” in the case. Either party, or both, can use discovery. If you use discovery, you are hoping to get information that will help you win your case. There are four types of commonly used discovery methods.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are written questions that one party “serves” the other.

If you are served with interrogatories

You must answer the questions in writing. There will be a letter that comes with the package of questions. The letter will give you a deadline. Make sure you return your answer to the interrogatories by the deadline. See What do I do about Interrogatories?

You can send a request for interrogatories to the plaintiff.

See How do I get Discovery? to learn about how and why you might send a request for interrogatories to the plaintiff.

Requests for Production of Documents

If you are served Request for Production of Documents

You must send the requested documents to the Plaintiff or the Plaintiff’s attorney. There will be a letter that comes with the request. The letter will give you a deadline. Make sure you send the documents by the deadline. See What do I do about a Request for Production of Documents?

You can send a Request for Production of Documents to the plaintiff.

See How can discovery help me? to learn about how and why you might send a request for production of documents to the plaintiff.

Admissions

Admissions are written statements that one party sends the other. You have 30 days in which to respond to admissions if the creditor sends them to you. If you do not respond, the court will treat your non-response as if you admitted the statements were true.

Important

If the creditor sends you admissions, you really need legal advice. Admissions are very tricky. Before you respond to the creditor and agree that anything in the admission is true, make sure you read every single word and you are absolutely sure that what the creditor is asking you to admit is true. Do not assume anything is correct, even if the creditor has told you before that it is true. Only admit to things that you know for sure are true. Deny the statements that you are not sure are true.

Deposition

A deposition is a request that a witness answer questions. The witness must swear that everything he says is true. A notary public records the questions and answers the witness gives. This record can be used in court. See What is a Deposition?

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