Dealing with a personal injury case can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when you encounter complex aspects like the subpoena process. By gaining a clear understanding of the role and function of subpoenas, you can feel more confident as you progress through each stage of your case.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the subpoena process in a personal injury case. We’ll discuss the different types of subpoenas, how they operate and what to do if you need to challenge one.
What is a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a legal document that a court or party issues to require someone to produce information relevant to a case. A subpoena is different from a summons, which is another legal document notifying someone that they’re being sued and need to respond. Subpoenas, on the other hand, are all about gathering information, documents and evidence.
In personal injury cases, subpoenas can be crucial for collecting witness testimony or gathering evidence like medical records or police reports. These legal documents are governed by the rules of civil procedure, which lay out how a subpoena must be written, served and enforced.
There are two types of subpoenas: subpoenas duces tecum and subpoenas ad testificandum.
Subpoena Duces Tecum
A subpoena duces tecum asks a person or organization to hand over documents, records or other physical evidence. In personal injury cases, this type of subpoena is common when it comes to gathering information from non-parties to the case, such as medical records, insurance policies and other relevant documents. For instance, a personal injury attorney might issue a subpoena duces tecum to the hospital where their client received treatment, asking for the client’s medical records.
These subpoenas can be used to request many types of records and evidence, like photographs of the accident scene, repair estimates for damaged property or even cell phone records to prove distracted driving. The attorney seeks to build the evidence needed to prove the strongest case.
Subpoena Ad Testificandum
The subpoena ad testificandum allows an attorney to obtain testimony from witnesses or third-parties, whose knowledge will assist or highlight an issue in the case. A witness can be required to appear for a deposition or trial, which requires the witness to appear under oath to testify. The type of subpoena is used when someone has information that’s relevant to the personal injury case and the attorney wants them to testify.
For example, your attorney might issue a subpoena ad testificandum to someone who witnessed the accident or to a medical professional who treated you. By requiring these people to testify as to their firsthand knowledge, you can bolster your case.
How a Subpoena Works
In a personal injury case, the requesting party (usually the lawyers) will draft a subpoena according to the rules of civil procedure, specifying the information or testimony required. The subpoena must then be served on the individual or organization, typically by a process server, sheriff or through certified mail.
Once served, the recipient must comply with the subpoena by the specified deadline or face potential penalties, such as fines or even jail time. If the recipient wishes to challenge the subpoena, they must do so before the deadline by filing a motion to quash or modify it with the court.
In some cases, the party issuing the subpoena may need to pay witness fees or reimburse the recipient for expenses related to complying with the subpoena, such as travel expenses.
Challenging a Subpoena
Even when you’re the victim or plaintiff in a personal injury case, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a subpoena. If that happens, it’s important to know that you have the option to challenge it if you feel it’s unjust or overly burdensome.
Some common grounds for challenging a subpoena include:
- Relevance: you might argue that the requested documents or testimony aren’t relevant to the case, so there’s no reason for you to provide them.
- Overly broad: if the subpoena asks for a massive amount of documents or information, you can challenge it on the basis that it’s overly broad or burdensome.
- Privilege: certain information, like attorney-client communications or medical records unrelated to the injury claims, may be protected by privilege, and you can challenge the subpoena on these grounds.
- Undue burden: if complying with the subpoena would cause you an unreasonable amount of hardship, you can challenge it by asserting that it creates an undue burden.
Work with an Experienced New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer
Navigating a personal injury claim can be overwhelming and the subpoena process is just one of many aspects that require a thorough understanding of the law. By working with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney, you can gain valuable guidance, support and representation.
The skilled attorneys at Mandelbaum Barrett have the knowledge and experience to handle the complexities of the subpoena process, ensuring that essential evidence and testimony are obtained to build a strong case. In addition, we can also help protect your rights and interests if you are the recipient of a subpoena.
We protect those injured and potential victims through the legal process, so please contact our experienced attorneys at Mandelbaum Barrett today for a consultation and let us help you secure the compensation you deserve.
For immediate assistance, call us at 973-585-5100.