Questioning the Liable Party Your Car Accident Case

If you're filing a car accident injury lawsuit, you'll need to question the other driver(s) to gather evidence for your case. This if often done using "interrogatories."

Like any other civil lawsuit, car accident cases involve a process called discovery to collect evidence. During discovery, the parties to the lawsuit utilize a number of different procedures to get information that may be useful to their case.

One method of discovery often used by opposing attorneys in a car accident case is to send written questions which the other party -- other driver(s), involved pedestrians, employers of drivers, etc -- must answer, under oath, within a specified period of time. These questions are called "interrogatories." While interrogatories are used in many types of lawsuits, this article focuses on interrogatories in a car accident lawsuit.

Your Interrogatories to the Defendant

Because the purpose of interrogatories is to obtain information that will be relevant to successfully winning your car accident lawsuit, you -- or your lawyer -- should plan to send the other driver -- the defendant -- interrogatories shortly after filing your lawsuit and receiving the defendant's response (called an "answer").

When drafting interrogatories, think about what you would want to ask the other party if they were sitting across the table from you, and then put those questions into writing.

While you are free to ask the other driver any question you choose, you should be aware that the law does not require that her or she answer certain questions. The defendant’s attorney can object to questions that are deemed irrelevant or privileged, and may refuse to answer them unless instructed by the court to do so.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of questions to include in your interrogatories to the defendant:

  • State your name, age, current address, and driver’s license number.
  • Are you the owner, or sole owner, of the vehicle involved in the accident? If not, state the name, age, current address, and driver’s license number of any other owners.
  • State in detail the events leading up to the accident and your version of how the accident happened.
  • State the name and address of your employer and whether you were using your vehicle for work-related pursuits when the accident occurred.
  • State the names and addresses of any known witnesses to the accident.
  • Describe your condition at the time of the accident: Did you drink any alcoholic beverages prior to driving? Were you using your cell phone? Did you take any medications prior to the accident or fail to take any daily prescription medications?
  • State any medical condition that you may have for which you have received regular medical care within the last five years.
  • State whether you have any restrictions on your license (ie., corrective lenses). Were you in compliance with those restrictions?
  • Identify any and all reports or witness statements related to the accident.
  • Identify any and all documents you plan to use at trial.
  • Identify any expert witnesses you intend to call at trial.
  • State whether your vehicle was in proper working order at the time of the accident.
  • If you believe the plaintiff contributed to the accident, state your reasons for so believing.

The underlying goal in all of these questions is to collect evidence to support you claims regarding liability for the car accident, and resulting damages and injuries.

Defendant’s Interrogatories to the You (Plaintiff)

You can expect to receive interrogatories from the defendant’s attorney, as part of the discovery process. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney can help you answer the questions and will object to any questions that are not relevant or may be privileged.

These questions will be aimed at obtaining any information that could indicate you were at fault (at least in part) or that your injuries are not as severe as you claim. The following are some typical interrogatories you can expect to be asked to answer by defense counsel:

  • State your name, age, current address, and driver’s license number.
  • State in detail the events leading up to the accident and your version of how the accident happened.
  • State the names and addresses of any known witnesses to the accident.
  • Describe your condition at the time of the accident: Did you drink any alcoholic beverages prior to driving? Were you using your cell phone? Did you take any medications prior to the accident or fail to take any daily prescription medications?
  • State whether you have any restrictions on your license (ie., corrective lenses). Were you in compliance with those restrictions?
  • Identify any and all reports or witness statements related to the accident.
  • Identify any and all documents you plan to use at trial.
  • State in detail all the injuries you claim are related to the accident.
  • Provide the name, address, and phone number of any and all health care providers you have seen for treatment for your injuries.
  • State whether you have been treated by a physician for anything other than routine check-ups in the last five years and provide detailed information on the reasons for treatment.
  • List all financial losses claimed, including lost wages and medical bills.

Even if you feel that the questions are unwarranted or unrelated, you must provide answers and/or objections within the time period allowed by your state (or agreed to with opposing counsel). The failure to answer interrogatories can lead to sanctions from the court and can impact the success of your case.

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