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What Are Interrogatories?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Interrogatories are one of the most commonly used methods of discovery. They are written questions served by the opposing party that must be answered in writing as part of the discovery process.

What exactly are interrogatories and how should you respond to them?

What They Are

Interrogatories are questions requiring your version of the facts and of your claims. They can be pre-printed "form" interrogatories, or specific questions asked just for your case called "special" interrogatories. Questions can range from the broad ("What happened on February 14, 2012?") to the specific ("Is it your position that the defendant was wearing a hat at 10:30 p.m. on December 31, 2013?").

The goal is to obtain relevant and specific information about a case. Only parties to an action respond to interrogatories, unlike depositions that question both parties and witnesses. Parties must answer the questions under oath.

The number and types of questions allowable are limited by the rules of civil procedure, as are the responses and time to respond. For example, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, each party may only ask each other party 25 questions via interrogatory unless the court gives permission to ask more. In general, the answering party has 30 days to respond.

How You Should Respond

Because attorneys may help their clients answer interrogatories, responses tend to be more, shall we say, "crafted" than answers to deposition questions.

When responding, you may be coached by your attorney to carefully choose language that is favorable to your side. This is allowed as long as it is truthful and not deceptive. But it's crucial to give complete and honest answers that are as straightforward as possible. You are under oath, after all. Lying could constitute perjury.

If the questions asked are excessively burdensome, unfair, or are difficult to understand, you can object to them. Your personal injury attorney will help you decide what you should object to.

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