Injury victims are often shocked by the scope of discovery and the extent to which defendants can explore their private and personal affairs. Filing a lawsuit truly does open your life and your medical history to invasive scrutiny. Under N.C.R.C.P. 26(b), a party may discover any matter relevant to the subject matter of a pending action that is not privileged. Privilege refers to legally protected private discussions or information. For example, attorney-client conversations are private and are protected from forced disclosure. The most common privileges protected by North Carolina evidence law are as follows: self-incrimination, doctor-patient, attorney-client, cleric-penitent, husband-wife, and the executive privilege to protect official secrets.
In practice, understand that you may be forced to disclose everything about your medical past, psychiatric treatment and history, criminal past, family history, and other details. Your career and work history can also be explored. You can be compelled to deliver personal income tax filings and other personal financial information. Although much of this information may be excluded from the jury’s eyes at trial, all of the information can be demanded by the defense in discovery. Similarly, the plaintiff is also allowed broad latitude to disgorge information from all defendants.