What is an interrogatory? An interrogatory is a question or set of written questions that one party will “serve” upon another party. The answering party must write their responses, and be answered under oath as part of the entire personal injury lawsuit process.
Just because the asking party asks the questions in writing, does not mean that the answering party must answer them. With the advice of an attorney, the answering party can also object in a variety of different ways to any question, asserting attorney-client privilege, attorney work-product privilege, or by merely stating that the question would elicit evidence needed at trial. The list of objections is not limited, and your attorney may simply advise you to not answer the question because the other party is not entitled to the information. This information would be considered “non-discoverable.”
Simply put, just because the questions are written, does not mean the questioning party is entitled to the information gathered from the questions.
In Texas, the questions are required to be served upon the answering party within 30 days of the end of the discovery period in the lawsuit. Answers are typically required to be sent back to the asking party within 30 days.
There are advantages and disadvantages to interrogatories. One of the best advantages for both parties is each party has the luxury of time to calculate well-thought-out responses, because the party being questioned is not on the stand, and time is not of importance, as opposed to a trial, where the witness may be forced to give an answer by the judge if the question is deemed appropriate. It may also be more convenient for each party if neither has the time to schedule an in-person deposition or formal hearing.
A disadvantage, most notably for the asking party, is when you ask a witness questions while they are on the stand, there is a large if information that you can also gather: tone of voice, are they nervous, does the witness seem like they are lying? Body language and other mannerisms are thereby absent when gathering evidence only by interrogatory, instead of a deposition or hearing.
Interrogatories serve an important function in our legal system. They have their place, but the best advice is to seek counsel on whether they are in fact the best method of obtaining evidence. Other methods include request for production and deposition.