What is “Discovery” in a Texas Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Discovery” the process where each party has an opportunity to investigate the facts relevant to the claims and defenses in a pending lawsuit. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (TRCP), starting with Rule 190, generally govern the discovery process and the obligations of the parties in Texas litigation.

In a personal injury case, Texas discovery rules allow the parties to investigate the facts of the incident and the injury claims. The most common types of discovery procedures in Texas are:

  • Written Discovery
  • Oral Depositions
  • Written Depositions & Subpoenas

Written Discovery

After a lawsuit is filed in a personal injury case, the parties are permitted to conduct “written discovery.” Written discovery is the process by which each party submits written requests to the other party in order investigates the claims and defenses relevant to the case. The most common types of written discovery tools used by the parties are:

  • Required Initial Disclosures
  • Interrogatories
  • Requests for Production
  • Requests for Admissions

Required Initial Disclosures

TRCP 194.2 provides that each party is required to make certain initial disclosures in the case. The initial disclosures are due 30 days after the defendant files their original answer. No other discovery may be conducted by the party until they serve their initial disclosures.

The information requires to be disclosed is listed in TRCP 194.2(b) and include the basic claims and defense of the parties, identifying persons with knowledge of relevant facts, insurance information, medical records, as well as other relevant information.

Each party is required to provide the information and no party may object to providing the initial disclosures.


An “interrogatory” is simply a fancy legal term for ” written question.” TRCP 197 allows each party to submit interrogatories to any other party in order to seek further information relevant to the lawsuit.

Such information might include simple identification information such as full name, residential address, marital status, as well as dates of birth and driver’s license numbers.

But interrogatories can also ask for more detailed information. In a personal injury case, this may include past medical history, information concerning previous accidents or insurance claims, as well as a party’s employment history.

A party who is served with Interrogatories must provide their answers in writing within 30 days. The answers must also be verified as being true and correct. The answers may be used against the answering party at the trial of the case.

Requests for Production

TRCP 196 provides that each party may send requests for production to the other parties to a lawsuit. With requests for production, the party is asking another party to share certain documents or other tangible items that may be relevant to the lawsuit.

In a personal injury case, the defendant may ask the plaintiff to produce things such as medical records, paycheck stubs, tax returns, as well as copies of their drivers license, vehicle title, and the police report. The plaintiff might ask the defendant to produce things such as copies of any ticket or citations issued at the accident scene, driver’s license, vehicle repair and maintenance information, and other relevant documents.

Besides documents, a request for production can also ask the party to produce certain things or physical items for inspection or testing. For instance, in a defective products case, a party may want access to the defective product for inspection and photographing. Additionally, in a car wreck case, a party may want to inspect the other vehicle.

Request for Admissions

Request for admissions are explained in TRCP 198. These are requests in which a party may ask the other party to make certain admissions in order to efficiently establish certain basic facts in the lawsuit.

For example, the plaintiff may want to ask the defendant to admit that he was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. The plaintiff may also want to establish whether or not that the defendant was working at the time of the accident.

Requests for admissions are useful to eliminate the need for spending time proving a fact that should not be in dispute. Once the fact is admitted, then the fact is established as a “judicial admission,” and no further evidence is required to prove the fact.

Oral Depositions

Oral depositions provide an opportunity to take the testimony of another party or witness prior to the trial of the case. The purpose of a deposition is to find out what the witness’ testimony might be if called to trial. The rules of oral depositions are provided in TRCP 199.

A deposition is a useful tool to find out what a person may say at trial. But it is also an opportunity to meet the witness in person and to evaluate the credibility of the witness.

The deposition is usually conducted in a “question-and-answer” format just like it would at trial. Usually, the attorneys will be present with the witness, as well as a court reporter who will record the witness’ testimony. After the deposition, the court reporter will prepare the official transcript. Sometimes, the deposition may also be video-taped. In either case, the transcript or video-taped testimony may be used by the parties at the trial of the case.

In a typical personal injury case, each attorney will likely take the deposition of the other party. Not only does that give the attorneys the opportunity to evaluate each parties’ credibility, it also gives the attorneys an opportunity to gather more detailed information about the case. For instance, the plaintiff may be asked to provide more detailed information about past medical history that may not have come up in the written discovery stage. And the defendant may be asked to provide more detailed information about the accident such as the cell phone use or the purpose of travel at the time of the accident.

A deposition is taken under oath and is subject to the same penalties of perjury just as if the witness is testifying live in court.

Written Depositions & Subpoenas

Although this is technically a form or written discovery, it is usually directed to someone other than the parties to the case. TRCP 200.1 sets forth the rules for written depositions and subpoenas. They are generally used by one party to get documents or other items from someone who is not a party to the lawsuit. This is called a “subpoena duces tecum.” In Latin, duces tecum means “you shall bring with you.”

In a typical personal injury case, the most common use of a written deposition duces tecum is to request the plaintiff’s medical records. Other uses of a duces tecum might be to obtain video evidence of an accident that might have been caught on a surveillance camera.

Not only will the subpoena duces tecum ask the witness to produce documents or items, it will also ask the witness to answer some basic questions in order to authenticate the documents or items for use in court. The written questions and answers may be used in court just like an oral deposition to admit certain evidence without the need for calling the witness live at trial.

Other Discovery Tools

The discovery tools explained above are the more commonly used procedures. However, there are others that may apply to any given case depending on the circumstances.

For instance, a party may seek access to certain property under TRCP 196. This might be relevant in a premises liability case or a case of a workplace accident. Using this procedure will allow a party to enter the property for purposes of photographing, surveying or inspecting the property.

Another discovery tool that might be used in a personal injury case might include an “independent medical examination, also known as an “I.M.E.” This procedure is available under TRCP 204. The most common use of this procedure is for a defendant’s attorney to request that the plaintiff submit to a medical exam by an independent physician in order to verify the plaintiff’s injury. Sometimes the parties may agree on the physician to be for the IME or the parties will ask the court to appoint a physician. However, this procedure is rarely used unless the plaintiff is complaining of severe ongoing complaints or future physical disabilities.

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