Three Things You Should Know About Interrogatories

Unless you have been a party in a lawsuit before, you probably do not know what interrogatories are. First of all, it is not a live interrogation. Interrogatories are written questions that you have to respond to in writing, under oath. A California personal injury attorney can guide you through the process of responding to interrogatories.

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Interrogatories happen during the discovery stage of a lawsuit, before trial. You might also have to provide documents and have your deposition taken. In a deposition, you go to a lawyer’s office with your attorney. The court reporter swears you in, and then the lawyers ask you questions. The court reporter creates a transcript of what everyone said. Interrogatories do not take place in person.

The purpose of interrogatories is to learn a great deal of general information about a party in a lawsuit.

For example, the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit about a car accident might send you interrogatories asking you to disclose things like:

  • Where you live
  • Where you work
  • Details about the car accident
  • What your injuries were
  • Which doctors and hospitals treated your injuries
  • Any lingering problems you have from the injuries

A party in a lawsuit gets broad leeway in the subjects they can ask about in interrogatories. Here are 3 things you should know about interrogatories:

1. You Have to Answer the Questions or Object to Interrogatories

If you ignore interrogatories, the other side can go to court and ask the judge to order you to respond to the interrogatories by a specific date. If you still do not answer the interrogatories, the judge can assess a monetary fine against you or strike your pleadings.  If the judge strikes your pleadings, it usually means that the other side will win.

Your lawyer can object to the interrogatories. A common reason for objections is that the interrogatories are unduly burdensome. If, for example, the defense attorney sends you interrogatories with 500 questions and many sub-parts to those questions, those interrogatories are likely unduly burdensome.

You get to send interrogatories to the other side. Lawyers can learn valuable information they need to prepare for trial through interrogatories. Every party to a lawsuit gets to use interrogatories.

2. Your Interrogatory Answers Can Be Used Against You at Trial

You will have to sign the final version of your interrogatory responses and swear that you told the truth. Sometimes, people think that they can “bend” the truth because they are not in a courtroom. Doing that is a mistake. 

The other side can use your interrogatory answers to impeach you during the trial. The judge will have a hard time believing anything you say after you get impeached. Also, the judge can find a party in contempt or find you guilty of impeachment.

3. You Have a Deadline for Responding to Interrogatories

Typically, you have about a month to respond to interrogatories. Your response could be to answer the questions or object to them. Objections must get served on the other party within the same amount of time as answers. 

If you object to some questions in time, you do not have to answer them until a judge rules on your objections. If you only object to specific questions, you must answer all the other questions by the deadline.

Interrogatories and other forms of discovery involve understanding our state’s procedural rules. A California personal injury attorney can help you follow the requirements and protect you from unfair tactics from the other side. Contact us today.