In movies and TV shows, the surprise witness is a staple of tense, courtroom showdowns. In most cases, the real world is quite different. That’s one of the main reasons we’re publishing articles in a Legal Learning series.

Fundamentally, the purpose of a civil lawsuit is not to generate publicity or obtain money. Rather, the purpose of a civil action is to discover the truth of a controversial matter. The sooner the truth comes out, the sooner everyone can go home. Therefore, discovery, which is basically an information exchange process, might be the most important phase of a civil lawsuit.

Discovery is an effective tool, but the best tool in a toolbox is only as good as the person who uses it. In the hands of an experienced attorney, discovery is a tool that ends legal actions sooner and makes successful resolutions easier.

Why does discovery matter in asbestos injury claims?

Discovery keeps the fact-finding process fair and equitable between plaintiff and defendant.

Discovery is more than an information exchange. It’s basically an equalizer. Large asbestos companies have unlimited financial resources. With their deep pockets, it’s easy for them to bury important evidence which could lead to compensation for victims and, more importantly, the truth of the matter.

In the case of asbestos, asbestos companies denied for decades that their product could hurt people. But when injured workers started suing, many company documents came out during the discovery process. 

These corporate documents showed that the asbestos industry knew that asbestos caused breathing problems and even cancer. But the companies did not warn employees or consumers of asbestos. And before the lawsuits, before discovery – the general public was unaware of the danger they faced.


If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related damage.

Good attorneys can dig deep during discovery to find important facts and evidence.

Imagine you’re an old-timey prospector panning for gold in a stream. If someone dumps a truckload of dirt into the river, it’s much harder to find a gold nugget. Most prospectors would give up under these circumstances. Likewise, many victim/plaintiffs get frustrated and settle their cases for pennies on the dollar.

However, the gold is still there. 

An attorney simply must be tenacious enough to find it. Asbestos cases are a good example. In the late 1970s, asbestos litigation was starting to heat up. Back then, large companies often buried victims in an avalanche of documents. Most lawyers quit looking for gold nuggets.

An obscure 1935 letter was buried in one such avalanche of paperwork. In it, the president of a large asbestos company wrote “the less said about asbestos, the better off we are.” This one line was enough to prove that, for decades, the asbestos industry knew about this mineral’s health risks, but they covered it up. We all know what happened next.

The digital age ended paper dump discovery. Today, e-discovery is much more common. 

Electronic discovery is controversial, mostly because it’s very expensive for both defendants and victim/plaintiffs.

The discovery process during asbestos claims and lawsuits.

If an injured person files an asbestos lawsuit, there is usually a discovery process.

The discovery process is focused on proving that a person was exposed to asbestos, and that the asbestos caused the person’s health injury. Discovery may involve collecting medical proof of the injury, and documents and work records to show how someone was exposed to asbestos.

But not all asbestos claims involve lawsuits, and for these there is usually no discovery process necessary.

Asbestos Trusts: Asbestos claims without a lawsuit.

Asbestos bankruptcy trusts contain billions of dollars placed there by asbestos companies.

The money can only be used to compensate people injured by asbestos exposure

Filing an asbestos trust claim does not require a lawsuit.

To make an asbestos trust claim, people only have to show:

They have an asbestos-related illness; and

They were exposed to asbestos before 1982.

A doctor or healthcare professional can test for and diagnose an asbestos-related illness like asbestosis, pleural plaques, or cancers like lung cancer and mesothelioma.

An asbestos attorney can collect the evidence needed to show a person was exposed, and file the claim with the trust. (The asbestos lawyer does not need to file a lawsuit at a court.)

How does AsbestosClaims.Law prove that you were exposed to asbestos?

After more than a decade of practicing asbestos claims law, AsbestosClaims.Law has created the largest database of asbestos information on the planet. The database is affectionately known as W.A.R.D. (Worldwide Asbestos Research Database) and  named in honor of Ward Stephenson, the first attorney to successfully win a case for a worker exposed to asbestos on the job.

Do You Qualify For Compensation?

Quickly and easily find out how you were exposed by searching W.A.R.D., the largest asbestos database on the planet.


When does discovery happen during a lawsuit?

Basically, there are three phases in a civil lawsuit, at least in most cases: procedural motions, discovery, and mediation.

Discovery takes place before an actual trial.

After victim/plaintiffs file their complaints, asbestos and other defendants usually file procedural motions, seeking to throw the plaintiff’s case out of court. Sometimes, these motions focus on technical defects in the petition. If that’s the case, the judge usually gives a victim a chance to file another petition and start over.

A failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, which is based on Federal Rule 12(b)(6) if you’re keeping score at home, is a little more serious. Basically, these motions assert that, no matter what evidence the victim/plaintiff uncovers during discovery, there’s no way the defendant could possibly lose. Judges only grant these motions in extreme cases. A fundamental rule of American law is that everyone deserves a day in court.

Most lawsuits resolve with a settlement out of court, often during the discovery phase.

We’ll delve deeper into discovery in the next section. For now, let’s talk about some case resolution issues.

Over 90 percent of civil claims settle out of court. Occasionally, cases settle during informal negotiations between the two sides. These settlements are almost unheard of in complex federal cases, like asbestos injury claims. There are way too many moving parts.

Additionally, as mentioned, if the case is settled before discovery, the best evidence is often unavailable. If those 1970s asbestos lawyers chose the quick and easy path, they wouldn’t have found that game-changing letter.

Therefore, injury cases usually settle late in the game, during mediation. Basically, mediation is a court-supervised settlement negotiation session. A professional and detached mediator helps the two sides find common ground.

Types of Discovery

Usually, the civil lawsuit information exchange process involves some combination of medical, oral, and written discovery.

Medical discovery could be a medical examination. Defendants usually have the right to demand victims undergo a separate medical examination. An asbestos lawyer can object to such a request on various grounds.

Expert testimony in lawsuits

More frequently, medical discovery involves an expert witness. The doctor doesn’t examine the victim. Instead, the doctor examines the medical records and interprets these records. 

Different states have different rules as to who qualifies as an “expert witness.” Usually, the witness must have high credentials and the expert’s opinions must be generally accepted in the scientific community. No loons are allowed.

Oral discovery is usually a live deposition or a deposition by written questions. In either case, the witness answers questions under oath, and those questions and answers are recorded word for word. If a lawyer objects to a question, a judge rules on the objection at a later date.

What are depositions?

Depositions are a series of questions that each party asks the other during the discovery process. They are often conducted in person (orally), and are sometimes videotaped.

In asbestos cases, it is common for there to be multiple defense attorneys representing the various defendants named in the case, and each attorney would have the opportunity to question the witness on behalf of their client. A plaintiff is almost always deposed because it allows them to provide their own testimony in their case. Other types of witnesses can include experts, coworkers, and corporate representatives.

Technically, a deposition by written questions is part of written discovery. 

Document exchanges are even more common. These document exchanges might be as simple as trading paystubs or, more likely, as complex as the aforementioned document dumps. Once again, if a party objects to a request, perhaps because it’s a “fishing expedition,” a judge rules on the objection later.

The bottom line is that, in most cases, discovery is the key to determining the facts and also obtaining maximum compensation for serious injuries.

AsbestosClaims.Law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information is helpful.

If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.

And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

All without filing a lawsuit.

If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.