The litigation process in personal injury cases can be lengthy, due in part to the stage of litigation known as the discovery phase. During this phase, a wide range of information is exchanged between the plaintiff and the defendant. A portion of the discovery phase is devoted to interrogatories. In personal injury lawsuits in New Jersey, either party often seeks information through interrogatories and the supplemental interrogatories about the damages that the plaintiff has alleged or the defendant’s knowledge of the defect or unsafe condition that caused harm to the plaintiff. Generally, interrogatories are a series of questions and corresponding answers that can be used to support or refute the veracity of your claim of fault and corresponding injuries. As you might expect, this aspect of the legal process can play a significant role in the outcome of your case when seeking compensation after being injured in slip and fall, motor vehicle accident, motorcycle crash, or another accident resulting from negligence by another party.
What are Interrogatories in a Lawsuit?
Interrogatories are a series of written questions submitted by one party in a lawsuit to the opposing party. The questions are designed to obtain more information about your case. Personal injury interrogatories are often requested and completed as part of various forms of discovery that is conducted during the litigation process.
Why are Interrogatories Important in Personal Injury Case?
In New Jersey, the court has designated that certain forms of interrogatories be utilized in personal injury legal matters. The forms are unilaterally used throughout the state, meaning that the same questions are asked of each and every plaintiff/injured person throughout New Jersey. The defendant’s attorney is also permitted to ask 10 questions in addition to those contained in the general forms. The purpose of these questions is to allow the opposing parties to gain more insight into the details of the accident and associated injuries. In certain cases, the details included in interrogatories will shed some light on each party’s role in causing the accident, with the potential to demonstrate each party’s degree of fault, or responsibility for contributing to the accident’s occurrence.
What do Personal Injury Interrogatories Include?
Plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury lawsuits may ask a variety of questions covering a wide array of topics that are relevant to the specific accident and injuries. For example, if you have been injured in a car accident and you are suing the other driver involved, you may be asked about the details of the car accident, including the date and time, weather conditions at the time, and names and contact information of any witnesses. If you are the injured party, the interrogatories may also require you to answer more questions about the nature of your injuries sustained because of the accident. For instance, you may be asked to provide a detailed description of the “nature, extent, and duration” of any of your injuries. Essentially, the defendant may seek information concerning the permanency of your injuries and/or whether these injuries were limited in severity or duration.
In addition to any inquiries about your injuries from the accident, the defendant may also ask about any previous injuries or medical conditions that you may have had. Pre-existing conditions may be used in defense arguments, whereby the defendant seeks to minimize their financial responsibility for your losses. Often, this adds an additional layer of complexity to your case but does not necessarily negate your right to recover damages.
Defendants typically do not rely solely on your statement of injuries and will often request the names and contact information for doctors and any other treatment providers who assisted in your care at any point after the initial injury. This information and other forms of evidence, such as photographs or statements that were made in conjunction with the accident, will all be compiled and exchanged during the discovery phase.
Are there Rules about Interrogatories in NJ Injury Lawsuits?
Pursuant to New Jersey Court Rule 4:17-1 any party in an action may serve written interrogatories related to the matters of the lawsuit on the other party. Interrogatories are written questions that inquire about information that either party may have in regard to the subject matter of the lawsuit.
However, there are limitations on the number of interrogatories that can be sent by either party. In all matters, including personal injury matters, wrongful death, toxic torts, professional malpractice, medical malpractice and product liability cases, the interrogatories shall be limited to those that appear in forms A, B and C of Appendix II of the court rules. However, the court rules specifically permit either party to include an additional 10 supplemental interrogatories that seek any additional information that either party may have as it relates to the subject matter of the personal injury lawsuit. If a party wishes to serve more interrogatories than the form interrogatories and the 10 additional supplemental interrogatories that are permitted, they must get permission from the court that is overseeing the personal injury suit.
Further, under Court Rule 4:17-1 (b) (2) the party served with interrogatories shall serve interrogatories on the party propounding or serving them within 60 days of receiving them. The party may seek an extension for good cause or what can be described as a sufficient legal reason.
Do I Have to Answer Interrogatories?
According to court rules, any person involved in a personal injury lawsuit must answer interrogatories. You must do so under oath to tell the truth, just as you would if providing sworn testimony under oath in court. Since the answers to interrogatories are written as opposed to verbal, you can take your time when completing them. Ultimately, it is you who must answer the questions. However, your attorney can assist with your clarifying the questions posed and evaluating the validity of the interrogatories. If applicable, your attorney can object to any impermissible questions and dispute the relevance of any information sought by the opposing side.
Discuss the Details of Your Accident in NJ? Call a Personal Injury Lawyer who Can Help
Our firm includes a team of successful and aggressive trial attorneys. Our New Jersey personal injury lawyers represent individuals throughout Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Essex County, and other New Jersey counties who have been injured as a result of negligence. If you or someone you know would like to speak with one of our attorneys about your car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or another personal injury case, contact us today at (732) 303-7857. Consultations are free and completely confidential, so don’t hesitate to get the answers and assistance you need now. Remember, there is limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit in New Jersey. Finding out if you have grounds to seek compensation as soon as possible is critical, and we can help.