Written Discovery. After the Defendant has been served with the lawsuit and has filed an answer, the parties typically conduct “written discovery.” Written discovery generally refers to a set of procedural tools that the parties can use to obtain information, documents, and evidence that is relevant to the lawsuit. Written discovery includes Requests for Initial Disclosures, Interrogatories, Requests for Production, and Requests for Admissions.
“Requests for Initial Disclosures” are requests for information that are already pre-drafted and provided for in Rule 194 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. They consist of requests for information generally relevant in any civil lawsuit, such as a general description of the parties’ claims or defenses, a description of the damages sought, the identity of any potential witnesses, the production of any applicable insurance policies, witness statements, etc. Once a party makes a written request for initial disclosures, the other party must respond with the appropriate information. A request for disclosures made pursuant to the rules is not subject to objection by the responding party. Likewise, requests for disclosures probably reflect the most efficient and streamlined of all the discovery procedures.
“Interrogatories” is just a fancy term for written questions. Unlike requests for initial disclosures which are already pre-drafted by the rules of procedure, interrogatories are individually drafted by the requesting party and served upon the other party to answer. For instance, in a typical car accident case, a plaintiff may draft interrogatories asking the defendant to state his version of the accident, to state whether his driver’s license has ever been suspended or revoked, to describe any previous accidents he may have had, etc. In the same respect, the defendant might ask the plaintiff to describe his injuries and medical treatment, his current and past employment. and to describe any past accidents or injuries. Once a party is served with interrogatories, the responding party must provide written verified answers or risk having the information excluded from evidence at the trial of the case. Furthermore, interrogatory answers may be used against the responding party at trial.
“Requests for Production” are requests for the other party to produce or provide documents and physical evidence for copying, inspection, photographing, testing, etc. Unlike interrogatories, the responding party does not provide substantive answers, but actually provides physical evidence for the requesting party. For instance, in a car accident case, the plaintiff may ask the defendant to produce a copy of the front and back of his driver’s licenses, the police report, photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles, etc. The defendant might request the plaintiff’s medical records and bills, x-rays, injury photographs, income tax returns, check stubs, etc. A party may also request an opportunity to inspect or photograph certain property. For instance, in a slip-and-fall case, the plaintiff may ask for any opportunity to inspect and photograph the area of the fall. Or in a case involving a defective product, the plaintiff may request to inspect the actual defective product. The purpose of requests for production are to obtain access to actual documents and physical evidence that may be relevant to the case.
“Requests for Admissions” are requests where one party asks another party to admit or deny certain facts about the case. The objective here is to simplify the case by determining what issues and facts are really in dispute. For example, the plaintiff in a car accident case may request the defendant to admit that he was the driver of the car at the time of the accident, or admit that he was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The responding party would either have to admit or deny the request, or state why he cannot either admit or deny. Once a party admits the fact, it is considered conclusively proven for purposes of trial. If the party denies the fact, then the fact may still be established by competent evidence at trial. If a party fails to respond to a valid request for admissions, then the requested fact is deemed admitted for purposes of trial.