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Understanding Lawsuits – What are Interrogatories?

January 27, 2017

Interrogatories in Lawsuits

Interrogatories – Written Questions in Lawsuits

If you file a lawsuit, you will have to answer questions, as part of the discovery process. The initial, written questions you answer are called interrogatories.

What are Interrogatories?

When a lawyer talks about interrogatories, he simply means written questions provided by one side of a lawsuit for the other side to answer. The questions are answered under oath.

If you are in a car accident and sue the driver who injured you, the attorney for the driver will have a lot of questions. The goal of the defense’s questions will be to find out exactly what the plaintiff (the injured person) is claiming, i.e. what happened, and how badly he was injured. The plaintiff’s attorney will have questions for the defendant as well.

Interrogatories are important

Interrogatories are extremely important. Questions answered carelessly can cause great harm to either side, because those questions will pop up again and again. Any inconsistency will challenge the credibility of the person who answered the question. Every question has a purpose, and both sides will be probing for weaknesses in the other side’s case. This is why it is critical to answer all questions honestly and completely.

The Questions Seem Formal and Complex

Sometimes the questions will seem very formal and complex.  Normally the questions have several parts. The reason for this is that the opposing side doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned.You might not know the answers to all of the questions, but that is ok. It is your attorney’s job to help research factual answers such as names and addresses of witnesses.

Examples of Interrogatories

Here are some sample interrogatories from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. They involve a premises liability case.  Premises liability includes things such as falling at a business due to the negligence of the owner.

  • State whether or not the defendant(s) (or anyone acting on behalf of the defendant(s)) are in the possession, custody and/or control of or know of the existence of any photographs, sketches, reproductions, charts, maps or diagrams of the scene of the accident, and if so state:
    • The date(s) they were taken or made
    • The name, title, resident and business address of the person(s) taking them and in the possession, custody and/or control of them:
    • The subject or object of this particular site or view of each of them.
  • Were there any signs, barriers or anything else at or near the scene of the alleged accident (or instrumentality) warning of the conditions existing thereon? If so, state:
    • When said warnings were placed at the scene and by whom:
    • Describe exactly what the warning was and the exact dimensions of said warning:
    • The exact location of said warning.

What is the lawyer asking? He is after two basic issues:

  1. Do you have any pictures, where are they and who took them.
  2. Was there anything warning people to stay away from where the person fell? What were they, when were they put there and where exactly were they located.

Pretty simple, right? But these two questions can control whether you win your case. If you fall at a business, one of the issues always is whether the owners of the property had warning of the danger that caused you to fall (for example did they fail to put salt down when it snowed and should they have known better.) Another issue is whether the person who fell should have known better, that is why opposing counsel wants to know about warnings to stay away. As a result, answering the questions with care is very important.

Don’t be Intimidated – We are Here to Help

If you ever need to file a lawsuit, you will have to answer interrogatories. Don’t be intimidated. This is exactly why you have hired an attorney to help you through the process.  Here at Lowenthal & Abrams, when you retain us to handle your injury suit, we will never tell you what to say, but we will advise you on how to handle the questions and help you answer the questions you could not possibly know without research. Contact us today for a free consultation and help with your injury case.

 

 

 

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