How do I answer interrogatories?

Interrogatories are questions sent by the opposing party to be answered under oath. They can be used in various types of cases – most frequently family law and civil litigation cases.

You must respond to interrogatories in writing to the best of your ability. If you fail to accurately respond to an interrogatory question and the opposing party discovers that you did know the answer, it will harm your case at trial.  The opposite side may claim that you are hiding information that is harmful to your case and request that an inference or assumption be made based on this at trial.

Certain types of interrogatory questions can be objected to. For example, if the interrogatory asks for a legal conclusion, or requests irrelevant information.  Instead of answering the question, you must lay out the reasons for your objection. These objections must be reasonable, and you should include them in your response and the questions you’re responding to.  If the opposing party does not believe your complaint is valid, they may be able to file a motion to compel, which asks the judge to make you answer the interrogatories. The judge will then determine whether or not the interrogatories’ questions must be answered. Here are some things to consider when answering the interrogatories:

Keep Your Answers Short and Simple

 Remember to limit your reply to the minimum necessary to answer the question. The best replies are often only a few words. The master of wit is brevity. Brevity is crucial in answering interrogatories because the more straightforward the answer, the less ammo you provide the defense. 

For example, if the defense asks, “Describe the incident mentioned in the Complaint in detail and any actions taken by you to prevent the incident?” “Rear-end collision” might be an appropriate response. Don’t mention anything if the client did nothing to prevent the accident.

Only Answer the Question That Was Asked

 Always read the questions attentively and just respond to the one that has been asked. For example, if the defense asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” The response is “Yes” if you have a felony conviction. You don’t have to say, “I have three serious felony convictions.” That wasn’t the question’s intent. Pay special attention to the exact wording used in the questions. 

Another question could be if the the defense attorney inquires whether you had drunk alcohol on the day of the accident. You could honestly say that you had not been drinking on the day of the accident. 

Take the time to double-check that your responses are correct and honest. Under penalty of perjury, you will sign them. The court may sanction any false or partial statements. In the extreme, this could cause you to lose the lawsuit.

Review All Information before Answering the Question

Before answering any of the questions, make sure you read them all. Also, go over all of the material and proof that has been provided to you. 

Reviewing related documents will help you construct complete and correct answers.

  • Before you answer a question, make sure you understand it. 
  • Consult your attorney if you have any doubts regarding a particular question.

Gather Any Information That Will Help You In Answering.

Before you begin preparing replies to the interrogatories, gather any documents, contracts, receipts, witness statements, or other pertinent material you may have. When you get to questions that require names, dates, or other specific information, you’ll be able to search it up more quickly. To respond to interrogatories, you do not need to conduct any more research, but you must review certain material that you should have on hand. 

For example, if you’re in a car accident because your brakes failed, and the other party asks, “How many accidents were caused by brake failure in the United States in the last five years?” You should object because it is unreasonable to expect you to look for this information.

On the other hand, suppose you are asked, “How many times have you had your brakes repaired since you purchased the car?” This is a reasonable question. You should respond even if it requires making an estimate or looking through car maintenance receipts. Finally, if you honestly don’t know, you might simply state that you don’t know.

Legal Assistance When Answering Interrogatories

Most law firms have the client fill out draft answers of the interrogatories for the attorney’s review. The attorney will then review the answers and make suggestions in how to phrase things and what to leave in or take out. The answers are the client’s, and must be under oath, but the attorney can usually provide insight on how to accurately phrase the answers in a way that most helps the client’s case.

If you have questions on how do I answer interrogatories or need legal counsel, contact our Concord, New Hampshire law firm for help.

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