Sample Interrogatories in Personal Injury and Malpractice Cases
Written interrogatories are a useful discovery tool for plaintiffs in all types of tort cases. Written responses from a defendant can help narrow down the issues in a case. Unlike oral testimony at a deposition, written statements are much harder to wiggle out of later so interrogatories can be very effective at locking a defendant into a position on key points.
Below are example interrogatories in many different types of personal injury cases for you to use to help you prepare interrogatories in your case. We have spent a lot of time fine-tuning our discovery over the years. They are battle tested and we think they are pretty good.
Use these sample interrogatories however you like. The purpose of providing these to our colleagues is that we should all be trying to spend more time maximizing the value of our cases and less time reinventing the wheel. But please read the interrogatories carefully and make sure they fit your case. You need to mold them to the facts. We have reports from judges and defense lawyers of lawyers who have cut and pasted these example interrogatories in their own discovery without even changing all of the names and facts.Auto Tort Cases
- Auto Tort Full Set of 30 Full set of all 30 interrogatories for a standard auto accident case. For tactical reasons, you may want to serve multiple sets instead of using all 30 up front.
- First Set – Auto Tort First of 3 part set of interrogatories for a standard auto tort case. Questions in sets 1 – 3 are designed like a funnel to narrow down responses from defendants.
- Second Set – Auto Tort Second of 3 part set of interrogatories for a standard auto tort case. Questions in this set follow up on and narrow focus of questions in the first set.
- Third Set – Auto Tort Third and final of 3 part set of interrogatories for auto tort case. Questions in this final set attempt to follow up on the prior line of questions and lock the defendant into position.
- Uninsured Motorist Case UIM cases involve unique issues that can be tackled very effectively through interrogatories. These are sample interrogatories on an insurer in a typical UIM case.
- Truck Accident – Company Sample interrogatories to defendant trucking company regarding an accident caused by one of its truck drivers.
- Truck Accident - Driver Sample interrogatories to the actual truck driver involved in a truck accident case.
- Doctor in Malpractice Case Sample of our interrogatories to a defendant doctor (and doctor’s responses) in a typical medical malpractice case.
- Birth Injury Malpractice Case Sample of the first set of interrogatories to defendant OB/GYN in a birth injury case. Mostly informational gathering questions.
- Nursing Home Negligence Example of initial interrogatories in a lawsuit against a nursing home involving both malpractice and general tort allegations.
- Product Liability Case Interrogatories to defendant designer in a product liability case involving allegedly defective boilers and HVAC system at a school.
- Medical Device Case Sample of initial interrogatories to the manufacturer of an allegedly defective medical device.
- Premises Liability Case First set of interrogatories to the defendant property owner in a premises liability involving an apartment complex.
- Government Slip-and-Fall Sample interrogatories to a government entity defendant (State of Maryland) in a slip-and-fall case occurring on state property.
- Slip and Fall Case Full set of interrogatories to defendant landowner in a typical slip and fall premises liability lawsuit.
- Dog Bite Case Sample of initial interrogatories to a dog owner in a common dog bite liability case.
- General Negligence Case The initial set of standard interrogatories to a defendant in a case involving claims of general negligence.
Below are samples of interrogatories we have received from common defendants in tort cases, such as insurance carriers. Defendants and their attorneys tend to use the same standard form interrogatories in all cases so these examples should give you a good idea of what to expect.
- State Farm
- Legal Malpractice
- Medical Malpractice
- Hospital Malpractice
- Traffic Collision (Plaintiff)
- Traffic Collision (Plaintiff Sample #2)
- Products Liability (Plaintiff)
- Product Liability (Plaintiff Sample #2)
- Malpractice Plaintiff
- Malpractice #2 (Plaintiff)
- Malpractice (Defendant)
- Slip and Fall (Defendant)
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 clients quickly. We like to draft some of the answers for them based on their responses to our questionnaire and other information we have, and the clients 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 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 responses can be read to a jury. You know you have written 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 to keep in mind. 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 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. Have ever seen someone running away from their answers to discovery at trial? It is not a pretty sight.
The first step in drafting interrogatories is to find a sample set of interrogatories in a similar personal injury case. We have a number of samples in all different types of tort cases above.
You use sample interrogatories because there are some pieces of information you want in every single case. But you are making a mistake if you do not craft interrogatories that are specific to your case. Ask defendants the hard questions and ask them early in the case to pin them down (and to have time to file a motion to compel when they don't give complete answers).
The biggest mistake plaintiffs' personal injury lawyers make after serving interrogatories is not demanding complete answers. Too many lawyers spend a lot of energy drafting great questions only to fall asleep when the defendant provides inadequate answers.
This is why you file discovery early.
It allows you time to be reasonable and time to file a motion to compel long before the discovery deadline.
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 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 accurate information that is described.
Insurance defense counsel often refuses to answer discovery. They are just looking for creative ways to circumvent answering discovery. Why do they do it? Few plaintiffs' attorneys 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 because it is "vague, burdensome, overly 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 employed by the court.
They also object because a particular 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 must 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.Think About How You Will Use Interrogatory Responses at Trial
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 developing discovery.More Discovery Resources to Put Your Case Together
- Sample interrogatory objections
- Get more discovery examples
- Model form questions from California
- Take a look at a demand letter