One of the most frustrating things for clients in medical malpractice cases is how long the process can take. Often, being the victim of medical negligence forces people to use the civil justice system for the first time. It can be an intimidating and frustrating process, but ultimately, it results not only in help with medical bills and lost wages, it compensates for pain and suffering as well. Additionally, it teaches negligent health providers a lesson, making health care safer for everyone.
One of the earliest stages of a medical malpractice case is called “discovery.” Discovery is a way to get information from the other party before trial. You can get any information from the other party that is relevant to the case. Use discovery to find out what evidence and arguments the other parties might use in their cases and at trial. Additionally, discovery can be used to constrain what evidence will be able to be offered at trial.
Medical malpractice cases have their own challenges when it comes to discovery. Often, medical records are voluminous. Sometimes they are stored electronically and require special knowledge and expertise to access them. For instance, in birth injury cases, the original fetal heart rate tracing will have clues that are not contained in the digital version routinely produced in discovery.
There are three major purposes of discovery:
First is the preservation of relevant information that might not be available at trial . . . . A second purpose of discovery is to ascertain the issues that actually are in controversy between the parties . . . [d]iscovery can be utilized to determine what really is at issue so that the parties can concentrate on obtaining evidence on those matters that are actually disputed. Finally, modern discovery allows a party to obtain information that will lead to admissible evidence on the issues that are in dispute.
Once a lawsuit begins, the exchange of information between the parties and formal discovery is governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure. Each jurisdiction will have its own discovery rules. These rules allow the parties to obtain information from each other in several different ways. Utah recently enacted a new set of rules related to discovery. It is important that if you or a family member have been harmed by medical negligence, you hire a lawyer who is familiar with these rules. All malpractice actions take some time, but retaining a lawyer who has experience with the unique discovery challenges in medical malpractice cases is an important consideration.
Utah medical malpractice lawyer Ryan Springer has more than a decade of experience in litigating medical malpractice cases. He knows the kind of games that hospitals and insurance companies play when hiding records or making discovery difficult, and he will fight to find the facts needed to win your case in court. To schedule a free consultation, call (801) 502-8735, or fill out the contact submission form below.
 Jack H. Friedenthal, et al., Civil Procedure 386-87 (3d ed. 1999).