Interrogatories are written questions asked of a witness in a lawsuit. The witness must answer the questions in writing, under oath. The interrogatories and responses can be read in court if the witness is unavailable, or to impeach a witness in court.
But a lot will have to happen for your case to get to the point that you must respond to interrogatories. Your lawyer will first attempt to settle your insurance claim through negotiations. If that fails, then your case may proceed to a lawsuit. At that point, the defense may present interrogatories for you to answer. Most claims settle before reaching this point.
How Long Would I Have to Answer Interrogatories?
If you do have to answer interrogatories, you would have to answer them within a limited amount of time. If you do not answer them within the prescribed amount of time, your lawyer can ask for an extension.
As with many things in law, there are some exceptions to the requirement to answer interrogatories. Your lawyer can file objections to the interrogatories if the questions are improper. Interrogatories can be improper when they are unduly burdensome and oppressive (far too many questions), irrelevant (ask questions that have nothing to do with the lawsuit), vague or ambiguous (poorly drafted questions that are too general), scandalous, or prejudicial.
Who Will Write the Interrogatories for the Defendant to Answer?
Your lawyer will draft the questions for the other side to answer. Just like the interrogatories that you receive, the defendant will have a limited amount of time in which to file responses.
How Do Interrogatories Get Important Evidence in a Personal Injury Claim?
Interrogatories are part of the critical pre-trial phase called “discovery.” During discovery, each side tries to collect the evidence they will need to prove their case at trial. Interrogatories can be a cost-effective means to gather a great deal of background information about each party and the evidence that party has to support his claim.
Both sides get general information from interrogatory responses. They use that information to determine the next steps in the discovery process. They might follow up on your responses by filing a Request for Production of Documents, asking you to attach copies of requested documents to your response. Many lawyers send a Request for Production of Documents together with the interrogatories.
For example, you might receive interrogatories with this as a question:
- Please state all injuries you received in the car accident that occurred in the city of Miami, Florida on October 16, 2017, that is the subject of this lawsuit.
An accompanying item in the Request for Production of Documents might be:
- For all injuries you list in response to Question #6 of Defendant’s First Set of Interrogatories to Plaintiff, please attach a copy of all medical records and bills or invoices.
The defendant will likely ask you to identify all the health care providers who have treated you for your injury. The defendant will then follow up on this information to investigate your claim.
Can My Interrogatory Answers Be Used in Court?
Yes, lawyers often use interrogatory answers in court. For example, let’s say the defendant is the driver who caused the wreck that injured you. She denied in her interrogatories that she was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. Your lawyer obtained a report of the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC), which showed that her BAC was over the legal limit. When the BAC report comes into evidence during the trial, your lawyer can bring her interrogatory denial of impairment to the attention of the court to discredit her testimony.
Another way to discredit or impeach a witness at trial with his interrogatory answers is if he denies something at trial that he admitted in his interrogatory responses.
Interrogatory responses can also be used at trial when a witness is unavailable to testify at trial. There are strict rules for this scenario, but if the situation meets the criteria, a lawyer can read the interrogatory answers into the record at trial.
What Are Some Typical Questions in Personal Injury Interrogatories?
The Defendant’s Interrogatories to the Plaintiff can include questions like these:
- Please identify all medical treatment, surgeries, and procedures you have had in the ten years before the accident.
- Please state the amount of lost wages you are claiming.
- Please provide a list with the full name, address, and telephone number of all health care providers who have treated you for the injuries you are claiming in this lawsuit.
- Please list all medications, including prescription or over-the-counter medicines, naturopathic or homeopathic substances, or herbal remedies you were taking at the time of the accident.
- Please identify all injuries you claim were the result of the accident that is the subject of this lawsuit.
- Please list all full-time and part-time jobs you have had for 30 days or longer, from the age of 18 to the present time.
It is essential to have the guidance and advice of a personal injury lawyer when making a claim for your damages, particularly when responding to discovery requests from the defendant. The lawyers at the Montero Law Center are ready to help you through this stressful process. Call us today at 954-767-6500 to schedule your free consultation.
Also see our blog on depositions in personal injury cases.