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Discovery and trial in a medical malpractice case

When Pennsylvania patients see their doctor, a brief visit can have major, life-changing repercussions. A doctor's failure to diagnose a serious illness, for example, can result in significant harm to the patient as the real issue goes untreated.

Last week, this blog discussed the discovery process that takes place in a negligence lawsuit involving a doctor error. While hospitals and doctors might be less than forthright about the error, plaintiffs can utilize different discovery methods to possibly uncover the circumstances that caused their injury.

The discovery process is meant to be broad, as the parties to the lawsuit have the ability to learn all different kinds of information touching on the case. In fact, the discovery process is often much broader than other phases of the case, including the trial.

While the discovery process is governed by certain rules, the trial is governed by other rules. These rules direct the court and the parties as to what evidence may be admissible or inadmissible at the trial. Accordingly, a certain piece of evidence might be discoverable, but not admissible at the trial.

Even if a particular piece of evidence is admissible, there may be other reasons why one side or the other might not want it to be used at trial. There may be more disadvantages than advantages to using the evidence, for instance, or there may be other strategic reasons for not using it. Accordingly, at both the discovery and trial phase, there are many different decisions that must be made in order to protect the patient's best interests and provide the best chance for success.

Source: The Pennsylvania Code, "Article IV. Relevance and its limits," accessed on Oct. 8, 2016

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