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    Understanding Form and Special Interrogatories for Beginners

Interrogatories – The Request for Further information in Personal Injury Cases

Injured victims need to learn about the legal process, and one of the essential steps in a lawsuit is interrogatories. Let’s explore what interrogatories are with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.

icon of microchip discover. Understanding Form and Special Interrogatories for Beginners

Usually, people go about their daily lives without thinking about law work. But injury victims will need to learn about this process. After all, filing an injury case in Los Angeles and the unique elements of the case are information intensive.

Discovery is one of the main ways a personal injury plaintiff develops and proves the plaintiff’s burden.

  • The information provided here will help to educate the person interested in knowing more.
  • Now this person will know about the process of collecting data and preparing a case.

Gathering the correct information from the start can help in preparing. Knowing what to expect with the legal process is vital. And choosing the right injury lawyer, in particular, is also paramount. Specific discovery rules govern lawsuits.

These rules intend to give the plaintiff and defendant the capability to assemble valuable information.

After the filing of a lawsuit, attorneys use specific methods to obtain relevant information during court cases. This information can include personal injury case law, etc.

  • One of these tools of discovery is the use of interrogatories.
  • Plaintiff and the defense use these questions.

The information provided can help streamline the process in a personal injury case. Because of these answers, parties can better understand the specific terms and timelines.

What Are Interrogatories, and How Are They Used?

In California personal injury cases, both the plaintiff and defense make a list of questions. First, they send these interrogatories to the other side. Next, the other side provides answers.

At least, that is the idea. This article covers Special Interrogatories and Judicial Council-approved Form Interrogatories. Covered elsewhere will be our discussion on Requests for Production of Documents and Things.

Interrogatories are sessions where the plaintiff and defendant question and answer each other to know more about the case or identify certain information before the trial.

It is a discovery tool that allows a party to identify a list of questions they wish to ask the other party and send it to them. The other party receiving the questions must respond with answers in writing.

Interrogatories can help a party learn more facts about a case, but they cannot ask questions that could lead to a legal conclusion. Suppose there is a case about an auto accident; a party could ask, “Was the vehicle you were driving registered in your name?” but they cannot ask, “are you at fault for the incident?”

In some cases, the defendant may provide business records to the plaintiff if the burden of deriving the answer will be substantially the same for either party.

Let’s look at an example pertaining to a custody case. A party can ask another, “How many times have you visited a medical professional?” but they cannot ask, “Will the child be better off living with me?”

So this is a simple process. First, you must mail “Form” and “Special Interrogatories” to the other side. These particular questions seek to identify something. For example, they will ask for names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, employment, etc.

  • Request For Admissions

Other informal discovery types include handcrafted “Requests for Admissions,” asking the other party to admit or deny something like

“ADMIT the medical bills are reasonable,” etc. And, of course, there are also “Requests for Production of Documents and Things” that can force a party to turn over actual documents and things like DVDs for inspection and examination. These are all known as informal discovery.

  • Form Interrogatories

Judicial Council-approved Form Interrogatories have boxes a party can check with specific questions. So the Court will typically want to know the answers too. Most of all, these are excellent methods to obtain basic info like birth dates and whether or not the other party has a liability insurance policy.

That way, we know if some kinds of coverage for the accident or mishap are available.

Sometimes Responses are “No Response At All”?

Of course, the party that receives the interrogatories must provide proper answers to the questions they received. Along with these guidelines, there is a time frame. The standard rule is thirty days from receipt, plus time for mailing.

But the party’s must verify their responses, or they constitute “no response at all.” (See Appleton v. Superior Court.)

The written answers must be accurate to the best of the individual’s knowledge. And the responses must have written verification of this fact. As discussed, the questions in the interrogatories will usually be about the background. So these will seek info about past injury claims, past medical histories, etc.

Defendants will seek your employment history. Focusing on specific types of questions helps discover evidence. Fishing expeditions are proper during initial discovery. But if objected to, this evidence may not come in at trial. But since it could lead to other admissible evidence, courts allow liberal discovery.

Understanding Form and Special Interrogatories for Beginners

There are two types of interrogatories, form and special interrogatories. Requests to produce documents or requests for actions are different than an interrogatory.

Form Interrogatories

Form interrogatories are a way for a party to ask 35 common questions and often occur in cases worth less than $25,000. It is a great way to obtain basic information such as date of birth, insurance policies, and vehicle registration numbers.

The process of a form interrogatory involves the following:

  • Select the proper forms and complete them
  • Make copies
  • Serve a copy of the form to the other party or their attorney
  • Retain the original copy of the form for your record.

Special Interrogatories

Unlike form interrogatories that focus on common questions, special interrogatories concentrate on specific questions that help obtain specific information about the case. 

The party must craft specific questions to establish a point that the other party must prove or disprove.

Can I Send Interrogatories to the Other Party?

It is important to note that not all cases qualify for discovery, and the party looking to send written questions must request the judge to allow discovery. In complex cases, there may be a scheduling conference to let the parties know the discovery process timeframe.

When making interrogatories, you must create written questions, label them as “interrogatories,” and demand the other party answer them in a letter. Typically, the other party has 30 days’ time period from receipt of the interrogatories to answer the questions to the best of their knowledge.

If the other party fails to answer the interrogatories, you can request the judge to file a motion to compel that forces the party to provide answers to the written questions.

How Do I Respond to Interrogatories?

If you receive an interrogatory, you must answer it to the best of your knowledge, and if you fail to do so and the other party finds out about it, it may adversely affect your case. The other side could argue at trial that you tried hiding certain information and can ask for an assumption or interference made at trial.

However, if you feel that the written questions lead to legal conclusions, you can object. If the questions are not related to the case, you can also object to that.

When objecting to the written questions, you must write your reason for objection rather than the answer, but the objections must be valid. Suppose the other party believes you’re untruthful or your objection is invalid. In that case, they may file a motion to compel, requesting the judge to coerce you into answering the interrogatories.

Even after the motion to compel the answerable party fails to respond, the questioning party can file a motion for “sanctions” with the court, including possible contempt of court. 

The defendant may ask the court for an extension with a valid reason, including reaching out to the persons present at the accident scene.

Let’s take the two question examples made before to see how one could respond to them.

  • Question: Was the vehicle you were driving registered in your name?
    • Answer: Yes, before the crash occurred, the vehicle involved was registered in the defendant’s name, Jack Hicks.
  • Question: Are you at fault for the incident?
    • Answer: The defendant respectfully objects to the question as it draws legal conclusions about the case.

What Else?

The questions might involve how specific injuries occurred from the incident and potential witnesses. Each state has its own rules and guidelines. In all events, in California, it remains essential to retain a trained personal injury lawyer.

Most of all, knowledgeable lawyers in the state where your incident occurred. That way, they know how the state deals with the questions and answers for discovery.

The other party must respond to the questions when court-approved interrogatories are used. After all, many judges consider it mandatory for parties to comply with the approved interrogatories. However, they are objectionable. But not every question may be valid in your case. So don’t just check every box. After all, the court could sanction you for abusing the discovery process.

What Effect Interrogatories Do Answers Have in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

The answers to the interrogatories’ questions are crucial for each side, determining party litigation direction. Courts call these answers “admissions.” So these give the lawyer the capacity to read the court responses aloud. Experienced know there is power in using the admissions from the interrogatories in court.

And this party’s answers can be used by the defense later to impeach or contradict the deponent. Parties can compel untimely interrogatories and file a motion for “sanctions” that can accompany this motion. Some courts treat bogus responses or nonresponses as contempt of court.

How Does the Discovery Process Affect a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

The answers to the written questions are also referred to as “admissions,” as it allows each party to receive information about the case and determine their litigation direction. Experienced attorneys can use these admissions in court to their client’s favor.

Discovery educates the person on what to expect, allowing them to work with their attorney to build a solid case.

Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney for Technical Support?

Several state and federal rules and guidelines govern interrogatories, and the party must follow them, which is why it is crucial to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. 

A legal counsel can help you answer an interrogatory’s questions and provide guidelines throughout the legal process.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

If you need assistance with the legal process or want to know more, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our experienced personal injury attorneys.

What discovery can do is educate the person on what to expect. Discovery helps the client work with their lawyer. Above we saw that interrogatories are helpful tools. Conducting discovery builds a solid case. Look at our injury law blog to learn more.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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