What Are Interrogatories in a Personal Injury Case?

During the legal process required to resolve a personal injury case in California, you may encounter interrogatories. Interrogatories are questions you must answer under oath, in writing. If you find out you need to answer interrogatories during your case, a personal injury attorney in Sacramento can advise you on what to say and what not to say.

What Is the Purpose of Interrogatories?

Interrogatories are one of many ways a party can gather information during a personal injury case. An interrogatory is often a part of the discovery phase – the part of a lawsuit that allows both parties to learn more about what the other side knows. Other components of discovery are depositions and subpoenas for evidence. The goal of interrogatories is to establish general information about the answering party in a lawsuit.

Questions on an interrogatory may include:

  • What is your full name?
  • Where do you currently live?
  • Where do you work?
  • What do you remember about the accident?
  • What are the names and phone numbers of any third-party witnesses?
  • What is your official injury diagnosis?
  • Which hospital or doctor did you see for treatment?
  • Do you have any lingering effects from your injury?

An interrogatory is different from a deposition because it is a request for written responses. A deposition, on the other hand, is a questionnaire used for verbal testimony. Both legal processes, however, are completed under oath, meaning it is a crime (perjury) to knowingly make a false statement or misrepresent a material fact.

Do You Have to Answer Interrogatories?

Yes, you must answer interrogatories, or else you must ask your lawyer to object to them. You cannot ignore interrogatories sent to you by another party during a personal injury lawsuit. If you try to ignore them, the defense can ask a judge to order you to respond by a specific date. Ignoring a court order can lead to serious consequences, such as having to pay a fine or being held in contempt of court.

If you do not wish to answer an interrogatory, you can ask your lawyer to object to the question(s). There must be a valid reason for the objection, however, such as the interrogatory is unduly burdensome. If the defense sends you a binder with 500 questions to answer, for example, this is most likely unduly burdensome and will allow for an objection.

What to Say and What Not to Say on Interrogatories

It is critical to understand that your written responses to interrogatories can be used against you during a personal injury trial. The defendant will be able to use any of your answers as evidence during your injury case. It is extremely important, therefore, to know exactly what to say and what not to say on interrogatories. A lawyer in Sacramento can help you answer interrogatories in a way that will not hurt your case:

  • Do not knowingly lie or bend the truth.
  • Do not admit fault for the accident or injury outright.
  • Do not speculate about fault.
  • Do not supply any information that is not requested.
  • Provide full and complete answers to the questions asked.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, write that you don’t know.
  • Ask an attorney to raise legal objections if you do not wish to answer a question.

You typically have one month from the date you receive an interrogatory to file your written responses. You can work closely with a personal injury lawyer while answering interrogatories. When finished, you must sign your name on the paperwork stating that your answers are true to the best of your knowledge, under penalty of perjury.

You may also have to undergo a deposition before the end of the discovery phase. While you can answer interrogatories in your own time, you must attend a deposition in person, typically at an attorney’s office. Like an interrogatory, however, you have the right to have an attorney with you during a deposition. Speak to a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento today for more information about the discovery phase of a lawsuit.