Our first and second blogs in this series focused on Requests for Admission and Interrogatories in automobile accident cases. They are both very effective discovery tools, but, as a practical matter, the documents themselves can “make or break” an automobile case. Requests for Production of Documents are governed by O.C.G.A. 9-11-34, which again is a rather complicated statute. The key to advancing an automobile accident case is a streamlined set of requests to send to the at-fault party, as shown below:
O.C.G.A. 9-11-34: Requests for Production of Documents
(a) Scope. Any party may serve on any other party a request:
(1) To produce and permit the party making the request, or someone acting on his behalf, to inspect and copy any designated documents (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phono-records, and other data compilations from which information can be obtained, translated, if necessary, by the respondent through detection devices into reasonably usable form), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any tangible things which constitute or contain matters within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26 and which are in the possession, custody, or control of the party upon whom the request is served; or
(2) To permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation thereon, within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26.
(1) The request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party. The request shall set forth the items to be inspected, either by individual item or by category, and describe each item and category with reasonable particularity. The request shall specify a reasonable time, place, and manner of making the inspection and performing the related acts.
(2) The party upon whom the request is served shall serve a written response within 30 days after the service of the request, except that a defendant may serve a response within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The response shall state, with respect to each item or category, that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, unless the request is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated. If an objection is made to part of an item or category, the part shall be specified. The party submitting the request may move for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 with respect to any objection to, or other failure to respond to the request, or any part thereof, or any failure to permit inspection as requested.
(c) Applicability to nonparties.
(1) This Code section shall also be applicable with respect to discovery against persons, firms, or corporations who are not parties, in which event a copy of the request shall be served upon all parties of record; or, upon notice, the party desiring such discovery may proceed by taking the deposition of the person, firm, or corporation on oral examination or upon written questions under Code Section 9-11-30 or 9-11-31. The nonparty or any party may file an objection as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section. If the party desiring such discovery moves for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 to compel discovery, he or she shall make a showing of good cause to support his or her motion. The party making a request under this Code section shall, upon request from any other party to the action, make all reasonable efforts to cause all information produced in response to the nonparty request to be made available to all parties. A reasonable document copying charge may be required.
(d) Confidentiality. The provisions of this Code section shall not be deemed to repeal the confidentiality provided by Code Sections 37-3-166 concerning mental illness treatment records, 37-4-125 concerning mental retardation treatment records, 37-7-166 concerning alcohol and drug treatment records, 24-9-40.1 concerning the confidential nature of AIDS information, and 24-9-47 concerning the disclosure of AIDS information; provided, however, that a person’s failure to object to the production of documents as set forth in paragraph (2) of subsection (c) of this Code section shall waive any right of recovery for damages as to the nonparty for disclosure of the requested documents.
Just like Interrogatories, there’s not a single right way to draft Requests for Production of Documents, but each set needs to be tailored to the specific facts of the case by starting off with a general template, like the one down below. Another good idea for a template is to have the requests correspond with the previous interrogatories.
IN THE STATE COURT OF [INSERT] COUNTY
STATE OF GEORGIA
[INSERT YOUR NAME],
Civil Action File No.:
JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
[INSERT DEFENDANT’S NAME],
PLAINTIFF’S FIRST REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION TO DEFENDANT
Any and all videotapes, photographs, plats or drawings of the vehicles, parties, scene of the incident or any other matter material to the incident underlying this litigation.
Any and all videotapes, photographs, reports, data, memoranda, handwritten notes, or other documents reviewed by or generated by any expert or technician identified in your response to Interrogatory No. 7.
Any and all medical records, videotapes, photographs or other evidence concerning, referencing or depicting the Plaintiff.
A copy of any and all photographs and/or videotapes depicting the Plaintiff doing anything.
Any and all documents obtained through a request for production of documents or subpoena.
Any and all documents regarding the property damage estimates of and the repairs to Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s automobiles.
Any and all documents which would in any way challenge, diminish or refute any of the Plaintiff’s claimed injuries, medical and/or hospital bills, or lost earnings related to the subject incident.
Any and all insurance policies, including declarations pages, which might provide benefits related to the subject incident regardless of whether the insurer agrees there was coverage.
Any and all taped or written statements taken from Plaintiff, or any other potential witnesses to this lawsuit, by anyone acting on behalf of Defendant or Defendant’s insurer(s).
Any and all documents, books, writings or other tangible things that support any defenses you rely upon in your defense to this lawsuit.
A copy of the title and tag registration on the vehicle you were driving at the time of the subject incident.
Any and all documents reflecting the disposition of any charges made against you in the subject incident.
A copy of your current driver’s license and all drivers’ licenses you have held in the past five (5) years.
Any and all documents related to Plaintiff’s medical treatment for injuries allegedly received in the subject incident.
Any and all documents related to the medical treatment the Plaintiff received prior to the subject incident.
Any and all documents which you contend in any way impeach or discredit the Plaintiff.
Please provide copies of any and all Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace or other digital documents relating to the plaintiff or their family that you have reviewed. If you contend the documents are privileged please provide a privilege log.
For any document which has not been produced on grounds of privilege, please state the following:
(a) the date each document was generated;
(b) the person generating each document;
(c) the present custodian of each document; and,
(d) a description of each document.
This _____ day of _________, ________.
[INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION]
At the very core, this blog series demonstrates that the critical aspect of an effective car accident case is a streamlined discovery process. It’s amazing what you can learn about the other party in discovery, such as previous convictions and a poor driving record, but always be mindful too that the other party will have the same tools available to learn about your own client. So be prepared! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at (404) 566-5880 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about your car accident and need legal assistance with your case.