GENERAL

An Overview of Car Accident Interrogatories

Evidence is required to prove an injury claim or liability. There are different forms of admissible evidence, including witness accounts, medical bills, and interrogatories, among others.

Many people consult top car accident lawyers in Bakersfield when filing a car crash claim. Personal injury attorneys can use interrogatories to discover more about the case.

What is Discovery in Car Accident Cases?

Litigating a case is a lengthy process divided into several stages, including discovery. The discovery stage is where the parties to a case exchange information.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), allow litigating to ask about nonprivileged matters that are relevant to the claim. In other words, any information related to the case should be during discovery.

 Discovery creates a level playing field because both sides use the same information. Too much drama is involved in legal fiction and that’s what discovery helps avoid.

Discovery vs. Interrogatories

Interrogatories refer to a set of written questions designed to provide more information about a case. These questions can be asked by plaintiffs and defendants. Interrogatories play a vital role in the discovery stage.

These questions are posed by both sides during discovery. Specific rules, which vary by state, apply to interrogatories. So, it’s imperative to consult a legal professional to help you understand the applicable discovery rules for your jurisdiction.

What Can Be Discovered?

There’s no straight answer to this question. However, laying out the general rules can help you understand what’s discoverable. The following rules apply when assessing whether something is “discoverable.”

Relevance

The facts of a case or the information presented must be significantly related to the case to be considered relevant. Suppose you’ve filed a car accident claim related to drunk driving. The defendant denies liability for the crash.

Depending on the jurisdiction, blood alcohol content can be a relevant item. Simply put, relevance can be proved by citing material facts that can impact the case.

Discoverable Items can’t be Privileged

Privileged evidence or information can’t be used at trial. While the law determines the scope of “privilege,” here are examples of how privilege works:

1. The attorney-client privilege protects any information shared between lawyers and clients, meaning this information can’t be used at trial.

2. The physician-patient privilege protects doctor-patient relationships, including diagnoses, treatments, or anything about the patient’s condition. However, this privilege can be waived when proving bodily or emotional injury.

Scope of Interrogatories

By law, the parties to a lawsuit can ask any question as long as it relates to the subject matter, including:

  • Alleged claims;
  • The defenses cited by the defendant, witnesses, and other stakeholders;

While interrogatories are considered questions, it doesn’t mean that they should be phrases like typical questions. Interrogatories help gather background or more information about a case, that’s why they’re sent at the initial stages of the case.

Depositions vs. Interrogatories

These two legal terms are distinct but they’re often confused and used interchangeably. Depositions are sworn testimonies by the parties to a lawsuit.

These testimonies are done under oath, meaning they’re recorded by court officials. The deposed person answers the questions posed by attorneys of both sides.

Interrogatories are written questions that demand written answers. Similar to depositions, interrogatories are prepared and signed in the presence of a court official (under oath).

Unlike depositions, interrogatories can only be directed to defendants and plaintiffs but not to witnesses. Also, a lawyer can help with interrogatories but not depositions.

Sample Interrogatories

Here are some of the questions that can be asked during discovery, or rather sample interrogatories:

  1. How did the accident take place?
  2. What’s the date of the crash?
  3. Identify all eyewitnesses who witnessed the accident.
  4. Identify other people who came to the crash scene.
  5. Identify people who arrived at the scene within two (2) hours after the crash.
  6. Identify all people who gave you statements.
  7. Do you have photographic or video evidence?
  8. State the nature and severity of the loss resulting from the crash.
  9. Identify all medical professionals you visited after the car accident.
  10. Identify the people or parties you’ve requested to be witnesses.

There’s a maximum limit on the number of interrogatories each side can pose. The federal court has capped the maximum limit at 25 interrogatories.

Answering Interrogatories Best Practices

Interrogatories should be made in writing and under oath. But how should these questions be answered?

Here are the rules for answering interrogatories:

  • Answers must be truthful and accurate.
  • Answers must be related to the questions asked.
  • Guesswork or speculation is highly discouraged.
  • Respondents must adhere to deadlines—usually within 30 days.

Different states have different rules when it comes to answering interrogatories. While interrogatories are subject to deadlines, the timelines can be altered with consent from both sides. The court also can grant an extension of time to answer.

Interrogatories help the parties to a case discover more about the case. A personal injury attorney can help you understand how interrogatories can help your case.