Interrogatories are a set of written questions sent from one party to another in a civil lawsuit.  They are part of the formal process known as “discovery”, wherein each party is entitled to obtain information, documents, and other types of evidence.  Discovery usually takes place before trial starts and during the beginning phases of trial. 

Both state and federal guidelines place limitations on interrogatories.  Parties are only allowed to ask a certain number of questions in the interrogatory, and sometimes the number of interrogatories may be limited in a given case. 

Therefore the parties always need to choose wisely when it comes to placing questions in an interrogatory. A party that is presented with an interrogatory is bound by procedural rules to provide a response to the questions. 

What type of Information is required in a Personal Injury Interrogatory?

In a personal injury suit, interrogatories can require a party to produce a wide range of information related to the injury.  These can include:

  • General questions, such as:
    • “What is your full name, address, and telephone number”?
    • “Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit before?”
    • “What is your age?”
  • More specific questions related to the case such as:
    • “Were you under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication during the car accident?”
    • “Were you prescribed medication after the surgery?”
    • “Did you have a history of neck pain before the car accident?”
  • Documents:  Some states allow a party to request documents through the interrogatory.  These can include medical reports or histories, receipts, or work stubs (for example, if the victim is claiming lost wages).

Therefore the scope of information that is addressed in a personal interrogatory can range from very broad to very limited.  It all depends on the nature of the case and the degree to which facts are already available.   

Am I Required to Answer or Respond to an Interrogatory?

Generally speaking, yes.  Most rules state that interrogatories must be responded to or answered.  A party’s answers to an interrogatory will be recorded and written under oath.  Therefore, answers to an interrogatory must be as truthful and accurate as possible. 

Under some circumstances, a party to a personal injury lawsuit can make an objection to the questions in an interrogatory.  However, the party must state a good reason as to why they will not be responding (for example, the question is “improper”). 

Similarly, a party can make an objection to a request for documents.  They must state the reason why they will not be producing the documents.  Alternatively, they can invite the opposing party to examine the documents at a specified place and time if they do not wish to hand over the papers.   

Finally, a party who has been served with an interrogatory can also ask the judge for an extension.  This would give them more time to answer the questions; however, they ultimately must still answer the questions.  Again, a judge will only grant an extension if the party has a proper motive, such as needing extra time to contact witnesses or obtain evidence.  Requesting an extension merely to delay is considered improper. 

What are the Consequences for failing to comply with an Interrogatory?

If you or the opposing party fails to respond to an interrogatory without a good reason, it could result in:

  • Sanctions:  A judge may issue a court order stating that the factual contents in an interrogatory will be considered as established, and cannot be disputed during trial.  These may take effect immediately upon the non-compliance.
  • A Motion to Compel:  If a party refuses to answer an interrogatory, the opposing party may then file a motion to compel, which is a court order issued by the judge requiring the party to answer the questions.  If the party then refuses to comply with the motion to compel, they could be placed in contempt of court.  Contempt of court can result in a fine or even possible jail time.

Thus, it is to your best interests to respond to an interrogatory if you are presented with one.  Simply answering the questions will help move your case along faster, and you will avoid further legal consequences by doing so.

Do I need a Lawyer for Personal Injury Interrogatories?

The discovery process is one of the main reasons why a lawyer may be needed for a personal injury claim.  There are several state and federal guidelines that regulate matters such as interrogatories.  If you have been involved in personal injury claim, you may wish to consult with a personal injury lawyer to help you with interrogatories and other important aspects of trial.