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What Are Interrogatories in a Personal Injury Case?

Colburn Law

Understanding Interrogatories

When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Washington civil court, there are a number of steps that you will have to take before you can secure compensation. You may need to engage in pretrial negotiations with the at-fault party, depose witnesses and other relevant parties, and calculate your potential award. 

During the discovery process, you will also need to exchange evidence in the form of written questions known as interrogatories. Interrogatories are a crucial element of any personal injury claim, and it is important to know how they work before you begin answering the other party’s questions.

How Do Interrogatories Work?

After you file a personal injury lawsuit, you and your attorney will engage in a process called discovery with the at-fault party. The purpose of discovery is for each party to exchange evidence and arguments in preparation for trial. The entire discovery process typically takes between six months to one year to complete.

Interrogatories occur during discovery. One party will send written questions to the other party for them to answer. The responding party must provide these answers under oath. Both the defendant and the plaintiff in the personal injury case hold the right to send interrogatories to the other party.

Court Rules for Interrogatories

Unlike other types of legal documents, interrogatories do not need to be filed with the court. However, there is a limit on the number of interrogatory questions you can send. If you are filing a federal lawsuit, you can send up to 25 interrogatories to each party. For state cases, county courts are responsible for imposing interrogatory limits. 

In King County, for example, each party may serve no more than 40 interrogatories. If you are using court-approved pattern interrogatories, or pre-approved questions created by the court, each party may serve no more than 15 interrogatories. Speak to your attorney to discuss your options and ensure your interrogatories fall within the court’s rules. 

You must also respond to interrogatories within 30 days of receiving the document. You will need to answer each question fully and separately in writing under oath. This deadline applies to cases in both federal and Washington state court.  

Common Types of Questions in Interrogatories

The purpose of interrogatories is to gain information that you can use to support your personal injury lawsuit. As a result, these questions are typically written as open-ended statements that leave room for the other party to explain his or her response. Your attorney can help you draft interrogatories that are relevant to your case and can help gain the specific information that you want to know.

For example, say that you are involved in a car accident with a drunk driver. Common types of interrogatories that your attorney could draft for your case may include the following.

  • State how the car accident occurred.
  • List every traffic violation you have incurred since age 18.
  • State your activities for the 24 hours prior to the accident.
  • List every car accident that you have been involved in.
  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime?
  • Did you consume alcohol or drugs in the 24 hours before the accident? If so, where did you obtain the alcohol or drugs?

Navigating the discovery process and handling interrogatories can be challenging without legal representation. If you plan on filing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. After your accident, schedule a consultation with a lawyer to discuss your legal options.