What are interrogatories in a personal injury case

Unless you have been involved in a lawsuit, you may not know what are interrogatories. Firstly, they are not something that is performed live or in front of the jury in the court. Interrogatories are questions that are written in a document to send the other party in a lawsuit. The other party (defendant or plaintiff) must respond to these questions in writing under oath.

A personal injury attorney can guide you through every step of the process and how to respond to interrogatories. In this article, you will be guided about some common answers about interrogatories that you might be looking for.

What are interrogatories?

Interrogatories in a lawsuit, generally occur before trial during the discovery stage. You may have to provide documents related to the case in order to submit your deposition.  The primary purpose of interrogatories is to obtain maximum information about the party(ies) in a lawsuit.

For instance, if you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant may ask you to answer things in an interrogatory – such as:

Where do you live?

Where do you work?

Details about the injuries

Information about the accident

Information about hospitals and doctors that treated you after the accident

Information about the lingering problems that you might have from the injury

Unlike several other legal documents, interrogatories do not necessarily need to be responded or filed within the court. They are always sent and received between both parties back and forth to exchange information about the case. 

How many interrogatories should you answer?

In a lawsuit, there are limited numbers of interrogatories that a person can send to be filled from the other party(ies). In a federal civil court, 25 interrogatories can be sent to the defendant (in cases, you are dealing with two defendants, you are allowed to send 25 interrogatories to each party).

The 25 interrogatory limit applies to every section and subsection of the questions. For example – 1a, 1b, and 1c would be counted as three interrogatories.

However, states are at liberty to set their own interrogatory limit. So for civil lawsuits in state courts, you may need to find out your state court procedures or you can also ask your personal injury lawyer. In cases where you have reached your interrogatory limit and want to get more information from the defendant, then you may need to request court permission before sending more interrogatories to the other party(ies).

How long do you have to respond to interrogatories?

The federal rule obliges a party to respond to the provided interrogatories within 30 days. Many states follow the same 30-day rule as well.

The federal and state rules for interrogatories require from the parties that they provide the information within the timeframe under oath sanctioning the truthfulness of the provided information. Many states instruct the parties to sign interrogatory documents in front of the notary officer.

How should an interrogatory be compiled in injury cases?

Generally, interrogatories are not written following a typical question structure, like with question marks. Rather, they are presented in an open-ended format, which provides the other party to choose however they want to respond to it.

For example, the question ‘Did you suffer from any health-related problem(s) before the accident?’ could be asked in an interrogatory as ‘State whether you were suffering from health issues before you got into the accident, and if so, then provide the information in detail along with the documents supporting your answer.’

Some states use ‘form’ interrogatories in civil lawsuits to gather information, but it’s not really beneficial in personal injury cases, as they are more fact-specific. It’s usually a better tactic to provide ‘form’ interrogatories when you want to learn specific information about a particular case.

Can the defendant send interrogatories to the plaintiff?

If you’re a defendant in a case, then you can send interrogatories to the plaintiff by adhering to some specific rules and guidelines.

Consider a slip-and-fall case, the store owner can serve the injured customers with interrogatories, where the store is acting as the defendant in this personal injury case against the customers. And then again, the interrogatory needs to target case-related information.

For example, ‘State if you have visited the chiropractor or orthopedic doctor or taken any medical treatment for back pain from any healthcare professional during the last 4 years.’

Here, the store owner wanted to know if the injured person faced sufferings before the slip-and-fall accident that could minimize the liability of the store.

Objections to interrogatories

Interrogatories can be objected to for various reasons from both parties. This may include the reasons such as:

The interrogatory is confusing,

The information asked in the interrogatory would take more time to be processed, such as preparing legal documents,

The interrogatory has asked for inadmissible evidence,

The interrogatory is overboard, unduly burdensome, oppressive, or expensive.

Here, it is important to keep in mind that under federal law, both parties are allowed to raise objections but required to respond to the other portions of the interrogatory that are unobjectionable within the time limit.

Compelling responses to interrogatories

In situations where a party raises unarguable objections and avoids responding to the interrogatories during the thirty-day limit, other parties can file a plea to compel interrogatory responses that are considered to be a great strategy when you are facing an injury lawsuit.

The court may want you to confer with the party and try to convince the party to respond to the interrogatory prior to file a motion. This is because when a motion is filed in the court, the judge will identify if the objections that are raised are valid. If not, the non-responding party could be held in contempt of court.

How can you protect your case from interrogatory objection?

Responding to interrogatory questions and answering the requests hastily to avoid exceeding the time limit can damage your stance. Plus, responding without analyzing your responsibilities and rights can eventually affect your case. You must be mindful and strategic while responding to your interrogatories.

In order to shun any potential obligation and futuristic legal ramifications, consulting a lawyer should be in your best interest. A personal injury lawyer is acquainted with the state rules and can assist you in personal injury settlements and in responding to your interrogatories even better.

To protect your rights in cases where you are stuck in legal formalities, visit your local bar and consult a lawyer beforehand.

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