One of the first steps in the discovery process after filing a lawsuit is the submission of interrogatories. These are written questions asked by each party to the lawsuit that must be answered in writing under oath. The questions can be complicated to answer and the answers you provide may affect the outcome of your case.
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Below, we discuss interrogatories in more detail, including responding to them.
What Types of Questions Are Asked in Interrogatories?
Since interrogatories are part of the discovery phase of a case, which is meant to help each party gather more information about the opposing side, the types of questions asked are generally focused on your basic personal information, details about the crash and documentation of your injuries.
Interrogatory questions are meant to be informative so the opposing party can understand more about your medical history, the severity of your injuries and what your version of the crash may be. However, insurance companies often use interrogatories to dig deep into your personal background to find any reason to deny your claim.
Some common questions asked about you may be as probing as asking for information regarding your entire medical history – sometimes as far back as 10 years. The opposing party may also ask you about prior car accidents. The goal of these questions is to find pre-existing injuries or an old accident to blame for your new injuries.
How Do You Respond to Interrogatories?
As interrogatories are written questions, your responses must also be in writing. This provides you the opportunity to go over the interrogatories with your attorney, who can help provide clarity about what is being asked and guidance on how to answer the questions honestly while being concise.
Once your answers are reviewed by your attorney and signed by a notary as witness to you answering under oath, the interrogatories are sent back to the opposing party.
Something to keep in mind when answering interrogatories is to stick to only answering the question asked. Try to avoid going into unnecessary detail.
Can I Object to an Interrogatory Question?
There may be some questions that you may not have an answer to or simply cannot answer for one reason or another. This is when your attorney may be able to help you object to a question. However, you must give good reason for refusing to answer an interrogatory question.
Common reasons injury victims may object to answering full or partial interrogatory questions may be because the questions are too vague or broad. For example, a question about your full medical history for the past 10 years may be too broad. Your attorney may be able to object to answering this question.
Compelling a Response to an Interrogatory
When you are legally obligated to respond to a discovery question, including interrogatories, it is called compelling a response. Generally, when a lawsuit is in the process of discovery it means both parties are compelled to answer all questions or object to the questions they believe they must object to.
However, when a party fully or partially objects to answering a question that the other side deems necessary to the discovery process, the party asking the question may be able to ask the court to compel the opposing party to answer it.
Building on the previous example, if you object to answering a question that asks you to detail every visit to a medical facility for the past 10 years due to the broad nature of the question, the opposing party may argue that your medical history is relevant to the case and therefore the court may compel you to answer this question.
Is There a Limit to Interrogatory Questions?
Yes, there is a limit to how many questions each party to a lawsuit may ask in its interrogatories during discovery. Although some states have different rules regarding discovery, federal and Texas law states that only 25 questions are allowed from each side.
How Long Do I Have to Respond to Interrogatories?
When interrogatories are sent, the party answering the questions has 30 days to send a response.
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