What are Interrogatories and How Am I Supposed to Answer Them?
Interrogatories- a legal instrument not to be taken lightly. When you think interrogatories, think interrogation on paper. Often served with your Complaint or shortly thereafter, they are a strategic set of questions designed to reveal more about the parties and facts involved in the case. Once all the other parties involved in your case file what is called an “Answer” to your Complaint, they will also have their own set of these interrogatories which will be sent to you through your lawyer (or send directly to you if you are representing yourself pro se).
This process is part of what is called the “discovery phase” of a case.
First and foremost, these questions should be answered truthfully with clarity, accuracy, and precision. For example, let’s imagine that you are asked to provide a physical copy of your tax returns for the past three years and provide your gross income for each year as in the space allocated under the question. As annoying as it may be, you will most certainly have to do what is necessary to retrieve this information whether that means digging through the closet, calling your tax preparer, or printing your returns off the web. So you get your three returns, attach them and then write “please see attached tax returns” in the written portion of the question. …But wait- did you forget? The question not only called for the copies of returns but specifically asked for the gross income each year to be written out in the response. Even though it sometimes seems self-explanatory or repetitive every portion of the question must be addressed. Neglecting to fill out a response to a question that can be easily filled out or not providing supplemental documentation in a timely manner could slow down your case.
As previously mentioned, interrogatories must be thoroughly completed. An accurate and appropriate response for each question should be provided. However, the fullness of each response with respect to amount of detail you decide to provide as well as what is deemed as “appropriate” in the eyes of the court, is where people can get into trouble by either revealing too much information or not enough.
Of course some don’t require much thinking like the ones that ask for your name, age, and dependents. Then there are others that have moderate levels of thinking like “Tell us about your work and educational history.” Then there are those that take a lot of thinking, writing, and careful description, such as “How did you get injured?” and “Why do you think the person you sued is at fault?”
Sometimes the other parties in the case will ask questions that, by law, are not admissible at trial. Insurance adjusters do this all the time over the phone before a lawsuit is filed. You can be sure that their lawyers will also try to capture similar information. While this information is usually discoverable by the other parties, there should be objections accompanying the responses.
Sometimes, information could be used to discredit an individual later in the case. Some requests are made which create an undue hardship on the individual to supplement the response. In both of these instances, objections should be provided explaining your reason for not answering the questions. A good lawyer can tell you which questions are okay to answer and how to answer them.
At the end of an interrogatory packet you will be required to legally swear that your answers are true and correct and have the entire document notarized.
You want it straight? “Yes” is the no-nonsense and truthful response to your question of whether or not it’s time for you to get a lawyer. You’ve already been through enough. A lawyer can take responsibility for your timeline, guide you through the whole process and make sure you’ve answered questions not only truthfully but appropriately. Too much can go wrong when you’re trying to do everything on your own. Let us go to work and fight for recovery you deserve for your injuries!
We have built a team of tough, dedicated lawyers- Gladiators in suits ready to fight for you. Call us today for a free consultation. No fees until we win. We fight for you. (615) 425-2500.
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