Interrogatories

Below are model interrogatories in many different types of tort cases. Use them however you like. Just please read them and make sure they fit your case before you send them out.

Sample Interrogatories for Plaintiffs

This is an example of multiple sets in the same motor vehicle crash case:

Sample Interrogatories from Defendants
Sample Interrogatory Questions and Answers
How to Answer Interrogatories Checklist

This is a checklist you might want to consider in providing answers to this discovery:

  • Figure out how long you have to respond. Most states allow 30 days to respond (twenty-five in federal court under Rule 33).
  • Get a copy to your client quickly. We like to draft some of the answers for them based on their answers to our questionnaire and other information we have and how them fill in the blanks. But, either way, get them out quickly. If you think you need an extension to answer, ask for it early.
  • Read them. It is trite but you really have to digest each word.
  • Figure out which questions are objectionable. Don't object just because you don't want to answer the question and try to keep the objection as narrow as possible. But if the question is overly broad, vague, privileged, or not relevant, you should object. Make sure you are not objecting to form interrogatories approved by the court.
  • Draft your answers. Write in plain English and keep in mind that these answers can be read to a jury. You know you have drafted a poor answer if a juror rolls their eyes when the question and answer are read in court.
  • Send the client a draft of the answers.
  • Bring them in for an appointment to go over the answers.
  • Serve a copy of the response to each party in the litigation.

There is one more really important thing. We draft our client's answers to save them the hassle of having to do so and because we want to word the responses in a certain way. But you really have to make sure the client owns the language. Unless you go over every answer - and even interrogate them just a little bit - there is a chance you are going to get it wrong which is an awful outcome. I've seen people try to run from their answers to discovery at trial. It is not a pretty sight.

Interrogatories: How Plaintiff's Should Use Them

The best advice for propounding, answering and following up on interrogatory answers is the one thing that few attorneys do: put thought into them as to exactly how you are going to use them at trial. We get so much advice as to what we should do.  As a result, we make a lot of diving impossible catches but miss too many fly balls. Just think about what you are trying to prove at trial and explore those issues. Think about the questions that box in the defendant (in one direction or the other).  Think about the hard questions that you would like to get answers to read to a jury.   Think about the case individually.  Then draft your discovery and demand answers that fairly and honestly answer the questions. Focusing just on this is better than reading a thousand different articles on drafting discovery..

Interrogatories are written questions answered under oath. In most jurisdictions, parties may serve 30 written questions.

Because the number of requests is restricted without a court order or an agreement among the parties, interrogatories in a complex case should be carefully drafted to request only information that a lawyer cannot find using other discovery mechanisms.

In determining the number of questions you can ask, subparts are counted separately. So asking an interrogatory with several questions does not help keep the number down. If an interrogatory has five related subparts, it will be counted as five interrogatories.

In 1994, Maryland Rule 2-421 was amended to allow a party to serve more than a single set of interrogatories. But the total number of requests cannot exceed thirty. Accordingly, we suggest serving more than one set. First serve an initial set as well as later ''clean-up'' set so long as the total number of questions does not exceed 30. In the sample above, the first set listed assumes that all 30 interrogatories are asked at one time.

The next three sample sets of are sent throughout the course of discovery. Defense counsel in a case recently refused to answer discovery because the defendant thought three sets of requests for admission and interrogatories were just too much. I do not think she has ever read Maryland Rule 2-421 or Maryland Rule 2-424.

Fortunately, we were sure that the judge that hears the motion to compel has read these rules. (Update: Yep, that is what happened!)

Another tactic that leads to quality information about defendant's case is using alternative interrogatories. These are used in conjunction with requests for admission. If a party denies a request for admission that goes to a critical component of Plaintiff's personal injury case, an alternative interrogatory asks the defendant to set forth all facts and evidence upon which the defendant intends to rely upon at trial to support the defense lawyer's denial. Attorneys hate taking positions before trial. (We do too.) So if you can pin down what the arguments will be, you will be in a much better position to structure your case effectively.

This rule does not direct how the questions are to be asked. It can be either in the form of a question (usually contention interrogatories) or they can direct the answering party to supply specific information that is described.

Our Law Firm

Insurance defense counsel often refuse to answer this discovery. They are just looking for creative ways to circumvent answering discovery. Why do they do it? Few plaintiffs' attorneys actually hold their feet to the fire and make them answer in the face of silly objections.

Frivolous objections come in many shapes and sizes. The most classic objection is that the interrogatory asked is objectionable under Maryland law on the grounds that it is "vague, burdensome, over broad, and not reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence." Many use this objection to the simplest of questions. As suggested above, you will often get this response even when you using template questions used by the court.

They also object because a specific word is not defined (no matter what the word is, right down to question what the definition of "is" is). Another favorite objection is that the plaintiff bears the burden so no answer is required, an objection that is beyond silly.

No matter what the objection, the key is to object quickly and press the defendant with a motion to compel if necessary. The process adds layers of time, expense and tedious effort because a motion needs to be drafted and typically the judge will require the lawyers to attend a hearing on the motion. But the pursuit is worth getting proper and complete answers.

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