Interrogatories are written questions that each party involved in a personal injury lawsuit sends to the other, similar to a written method of “interrogation.” Most of the questions center around the facts of the case, allowing each side to confirm basic information before the claim proceeds to trial.
Interrogatories are a fast, and relatively inexpensive tool used in the discovery phase to find out more information about each side’s case. Once a lawsuit is filed, and the defendant answers the complaint, the next step is discovery. In most cases, your attorney will receive a list of questions from the defense attorney and then forward them to you to answer. You must respond to interrogatories honestly, and to the best of your ability. It can have a negative impact on your case at trial if the other side learns that you did not answer a question that you do, in fact, know the answer to. Your lawyer can walk you through answering any of the tough questions, will review your responses, and advise you if any questions are irrelevant. Unlike most legal documents, interrogatories are only sent back and forth between parties, and do not need to be filed with the court unless a court order is issued.
Every state has its own rules that outline exactly how interrogatories should look, and how many must be answered for civil lawsuits. The state of Missouri limits the number of interrogatories a party can send to 25, including sub-parts (Mo. R. Civ. P. 57.01 (Revised 2019)). Any excess questions require permission from the court or agreement by the parties. After being served interrogatories, you have 30 days to respond. Unless the interrogatories were included with original pleadings, then you have 45 days from the earlier of the date the party was served or entered an appearance (Mo. R. Civ. P. 57.01 (c)).
To object to interrogatories, you must write out the reasons for the objection instead of answering the question. Parties may object to interrogatories on several grounds, such as:
If the other party does not believe your objection is valid, they have the option to file a motion to compel. Which basically asks the judge to force you to answer the interrogatories. A decision will then be made by the judge as to whether the question(s) must be answered or not.
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