How to Answer Interrogatories

How to Answer InterrogatoriesIf your case goes to litigation, you will need to answer interrogatories, usually within the first few months after the lawsuit is filed (others can be served later in the case). Interrogatories are written questions from opposing counsel — part of the discovery process — designed to give him basic information about you and your case. They must be answered in writing and under oath (notarized), and returned to opposing counsel within 30 days.

While different lawyers have different methods, it is fairly common for plaintiffs’ lawyers to mail their clients the defendant’s interrogatories with fairly limited instructions on how to answer them. This is because the lawyer plans to tweak and modify your answers before preparing them in final form for your signature. So, many times plaintiffs will receive them with only the vague instructions to “answer as best you can” and return them to the lawyer. To save you some time and anxiety when the time comes to answer interrogatories, here are some basic instructions on how to answer them.

The Four Basic Types of Interrogatories in a Personal Injury Case

The first set of interrogatories, called initial interrogatories, sent out in personal injury cases are fairly standardized. In my home state of Florida, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure actually contain standard initial interrogatories which must be used by both the plaintiff and defendant in personal injury cases (with extra standard instructions for car accident and medical malpractice cases). Even if you’re not in a state which has such mandatory interrogatories, it’s a safe bet that the lawyers in your state have developed standard questions which run along similar lines. If, after reading the defense lawyer’s interrogatories, you’re wondering “why did he ask me that?”, see this article.

The four basic types of initial interrogatories (aside from the obvious ones, such as “State the name and address of the person answering these interrogatories”) are:

  1. List questions,
  2. Yes/No and if yes questions,
  3. Narrative questions, and
  4. Lawyer questions.

How you answer each question, and how thorough your answer should be, depends upon the type.

How to Answer Interrogatories — List Questions

List questions are interrogatories you usually must answer in the form of a list. Examples of these would be:

  • List the names, business addresses, dates of employment, and rates of pay regarding all employers, including self-employment, for whom you have worked in the past 10 years.
  • List all former names and when you were known by those names. State all addresses where you have lived for the past 10 years, the dates you lived at each address, your Social Security number, your date of birth, and, if you are or have ever been married, the name of your spouse or spouses.
  • List the names and business addresses of each physician who has treated or examined you, and each medical facility where you have received any treatment or examination for the injuries for which you seek damages in this case; and state as to each the date of treatment or examination and the injury or condition for which you were examined or treated.
  • List the names and business addresses of all other physicians, medical facilities, or other health care providers by whom or at which you have been examined or treated in the past 10 years; and state as to each the dates of examination or treatment and the condition or injury for which you were examined or treated.
  • List the names and addresses of all persons who are believed or known by you, your agents, or your attorneys to have any knowledge concerning any of the issues in this lawsuit; and specify the subject matter about which the witness has knowledge.

You should answer these as thoroughly as possible, as omitting items from these lists may prevent you from calling certain witnesses or introducing certain evidence later. When these questions ask for specific dates, such as the ones asking for dates of medical treatment, don’t waste time trying to list each specific date on which you saw your doctor (your medical records will provide this information). Rather, just list a range, such as “March 2010 – February 2011”. If you can’t narrow it down to the month, just list the years. Interrogatories such as these are not expected to be answered with specificity to the day, even though they seem like that’s what is being asked.

If you know that you are omitting things from the list — for example, if you can’t recall all of your treating doctors for the past 10 years and you don’t have any records to refresh your memory — note in your answer that there are others that you cannot recall and try to identify these items as best you can. In the case of doctors, you could say “I know that I saw another physician whose name I cannot recall at this time, despite my best efforts to research the matter. He was a family physician in Orlando, Florida that I saw for the flu in 2002.”

With respect to identifying “all people who have knowledge about your case”, be specific about their names and addresses and vague about the subject of their knowledge. For example, if someone was in the car with you at the time of the accident, you would identify that person specifically and state that he “witnessed the accident — was in my car at the time.” For people you expect to testify as to how the accident has affected you, such as your family members, identify them, state their relation to you and just list them as having “knowledge about how the accident affected my life.”

Settlement tip

If you need to go through your records to answer these type of interrogatories completely, do it. Unlike depositions, in which you are only required to answer questions with the knowledge in your head, you are expected to answer interrogatories, especially list-type ones, using any and all resources within your control.

How to Answer Interrogatories — Yes/No and if Yes Questions

“Yes/No and if yes” interrogatories should be fairly obvious. They ask a “Yes/No” question, with a follow-up question only if your answer to the first part is “yes”. Examples of these are:

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  • Do you wear glasses, contact lenses, or hearing aids? If so, who prescribed them, when were they prescribed, when were your eyes or ears last examined, and what is the name and address of the examiner?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime, other than any juvenile adjudication, which under the law under which you were convicted was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of 1 year, or that involved dishonesty or a false statement regardless of the punishment? If so, state as to each conviction the specific crime and the date and place of conviction.
  • Were you suffering from physical infirmity, disability, or sickness at the time of the incident described in the complaint? If so, what was the nature of the infirmity, disability, or sickness?
  • Did you consume any alcoholic beverages or take any drugs or medications within 12 hours before the time of the incident described in the complaint? If so, state the type and amount of alcoholic beverages, drugs, or medication which were consumed, and when and where you consumed them.
  • Were you charged with any violation of law (including any regulations or ordinances) arising out of the incident described in the complaint? If so, what was the nature of the charge; what plea or answer, if any, did you enter to the charge; what court or agency heard the charge; was any written report prepared by anyone regarding this charge, and, if so, what is the name and address of the person or entity that prepared the report; do you have a copy of the report; and was the testimony at any trial, hearing, or other proceeding on the charge recorded in any manner, and, if so, what is the name and address of the person who recorded the testimony.

For these questions, if your answer is “no,” that is all you need to write. If you answer “yes”, answer the rest of the question as thoroughly as possible, just as you would answer a list-type question.

Settlement tip

How to Answer Interrogatories — Narrative Questions

Narrative questions are those which ask for answers in the form of a narrative description. These are the trickiest to answer, and should be answered as vaguely as possible. Examples of narrative questions are:

  • Describe in detail how the incident described in the complaint happened, including all actions taken by you to prevent the incident.
  • Describe in detail each act or omission on the part of any party to this lawsuit that you contend constituted negligence that was a contributing legal cause of the incident in question.
  • Describe each injury for which you are claiming damages in this case, specifying the part of your body that was injured, the nature of the injury, and, as to any injuries you contend are permanent, the effects on you that you claim are permanent.

Most plaintiffs tend to write a short story in response to these types of questions, using far more detail than they should. Instead, your goal should be to answer as briefly and vaguely as possible while still giving a complete answer. For example, when asked how the incident occurred, you could write “I was stopped at a red light when the defendant rear-ended my vehicle. There was nothing I could do to avoid the accident.” This second sentence should always be your response to “what could you have done to avoid the accident.” Don’t speculate as to what you could have done. That’s the defense attorney’s job. Don’t do it for him.

You don’t need to include irrelevant details such as where you were going or what you were doing at that particular intersection. You don’t need to mention how you looked up at the rear-view when you heard screeching tires. All of these details will be covered at your deposition, so there’s no need to lock yourself into them now (risking possible inconsistency at your deposition).

When asked what the defendant did wrong, once again be vague. “The defendant failed to maintain a proper lookout while operating his vehicle.” “The store failed to maintain a safe premises by allowing a liquid, about which it either knew or should have known, to remain on its floor and/or failing to warn customers about the liquid.” Don’t add any unneeded details.

When describing your injuries, be sure to include every affected body part — leaving out what seems like a minor injury could hurt your lawsuit if that injury becomes more serious later on during the case. Don’t try to list every specific medical diagnosis. Answer as a non-doctor would. “My lower back was injured, causing pain and intermittent numbness and weakness in my legs. I believe this injury to be permanent.”

If your own lawyer wants you to add more detail to your answers to narrative questions, he’ll let you know. Don’t make more work for yourself and your lawyer by starting with a long answer that he’ll just wind up shortening.

How to Answer Interrogatories — Lawyer Questions

There are some interrogatories that only your lawyer will be able to answer. Hopefully, your lawyer will point these out when he mails the interrogatories to you. Generally, these questions involve other settlements or experts, witnesses and evidence that will be used at trial. For example:

  • Do you intend to call any expert witnesses at the trial of this case? If so, state as to each such witness the name and business address of the witness, the witness‘s qualifications as an expert, the subject matter upon which the witness is expected to testify, the substance of the facts and opinions to which the witness is expected to testify, and a summary of the grounds for each opinion.
  • Have you made an agreement with anyone that would limit that party‘s liability to anyone for any of the damages sued upon in this case? If so, state the terms of the agreement and the parties to it.
  • List all witnesses that you intend to call at the trial in this matter and any documents or other tangible items you intend to introduce as evidence at the trial in this case.

Just leave these blank. Most of the time, these will be served too soon in the case to answer, and your lawyer will answer by saying that “no final decisions have been made as to [experts] [trial witnesses] [trial evidence] at this time.”

What Happens After You Return Your Draft Interrogatory Answers to Your Lawyer?

As an initial matter, your draft interrogatory answers should be returned to your lawyer as quickly as possible. He will need time to revise them into final form and have you come in to sign them before sending them to the defense lawyer within the 30-day deadline. Keep a copy of your draft answers, so you can compare them to the final answers your lawyer prepared.

When your lawyer calls you in to sign the final answers, take the time to read them thoroughly, comparing them to your draft answers. If there are any errors, make sure they are corrected. You are signing these under oath. Many plaintiffs have gotten in trouble because they never bothered to read interrogatory answers that were changed by their lawyers. Don’t assume that your lawyer’s office made no mistakes in the revision process.

If, after your interrogatory answers are provided to opposing counsel, you realize that you forgot to include something in your answers (or you made a mistake), tell your lawyer as soon as possible. It is easy for him to provide a supplemental answer correcting the error and it is best done as soon as possible. It looks far better if you voluntarily disclose the error or omission than it does if the defendant discovers it on his own.

As a final piece of advice, never, ever, intentionally lie on your interrogatory answers. If you are caught, the court can impose severe sanctions, up to and including the dismissal of your lawsuit.

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169 Responses to How to Answer Interrogatories

  1. charlie says:

    fl_litig8r,

    I proposed rescinding a Settlement Agreement. Defendants accepted. Afterwards I realized I could not come up with the monies I received from the settlement to place the defendants in the same position they were in prior to settlement. i then notified Defendants, pursuant to Florida law, I would not make a decision on rescission until I had to which is before trial.
    Defendants just filed a motion to enforce the rescission. Without the ability to pay back the settlement proceeds can defendants prevail on their motion to enforce rescission?

    Respectfully and thankfully,
    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      As you might imagine, it’s not like this scenario occurs very often, if at all, so I can’t say how the court will deal with your current inability to refund the settlement money. It may, as you previously alluded to in other comments, enter a judgment against you for the amount you can’t pay and leave it to the insurer to try to execute on that judgment. The prior repayment of the settlement money in a rescission situation is meant to benefit the party who initially paid the money, so if that party is willing to agree to the rescission without the prior repayment in order to enforce the settlement, I doubt that the court will have a problem with it.

  2. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    an attorney said, if defendants had a judgment against me, it is possible the court may not hear my claims which are not a part of the rescission claims. Doesn’t seem right to me. What do you know about a situation such as this?

    Respectfully and thankfully,
    All the best,

    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I have no idea where the attorney got that notion. While a judgment a defendant has against you may be used to offset any judgment you may get against them, it wouldn’t act as any kind of bar to suing them. For example, say Mr. Smith has a judgment against Mr. Jones from a breach of contract action, and Mr. Jones can’t pay it. That wouldn’t stop Mr. Jones from suing Mr. Smith for a negligence claim, like a car accident, or even for a different breach of contract by Smith himself. Any judgment Jones gets against Smith could be offset by Smith’s judgment against Jones, but the court would never say that Jones can’t sue Smith because of the unpaid judgment.

  3. charlie says:

    hi fl_litig8r,

    THANKS !!!!

    RESPECTFULLY,
    charlie

  4. Vye says:

    I am involved in a family law case in California. I have filed a request for modification of child custody, as well as served my ex-wife with a Request for Production of Income & Expense Declaration. My ex-wife (our divorce was final in 2013) produced to me a copy of her Income & Expense Declaration, AND has served me with Form Interrogatories-Family Law. She has requested Personal History, Persons sharing residence, Support provided others, Support received for others, Current income, Other income, Tax returns, Insurance, Health, Children’s needs (as provided on form FL-145).

    Am I required to fill out and respond to this form interrogatories-family law? I have no clue why she is asking for this information, other than I served her with a request for production of income and expense declaration. We have been divorced for over a year now, I am already remarried. The only thing I can find about this is that it is generally used in cases of divorce, for a cheaper alternative to discovery. Why am I being served this post-divorce?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I looked up the form you referenced, and it does appear to be standardized interrogatories for pro se litigants to use in California divorce cases. They certainly aren’t tailored to seek information relevant to only a child custody modification hearing. That being said, I’m neither a family lawyer nor a California lawyer, so I can’t advise you on which of these questions (if any) to object to. The standard of what is discoverable is not whether the information sought is admissible, but whether it might reasonably lead to admissible evidence. Going through each interrogatory, ask whether you strongly believe that the answer could not possibly lead to the discovery of evidence admissible at a child custody modification hearing, and if it can’t, answer it with “Objection. Relevance.” You can’t just ignore the whole thing outright. You need to go question by question and answer those that may be relevant to the current issue before the court. It’s annoying, but the broad scope of civil discovery requires it.

  5. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Is a plaintiff able to conduct discovery which might reasonably lead to admissible evidence on issues involving claims which are the subject matter of Defendants pending motion to dismiss.

    Best,
    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Yes, though it shouldn’t be necessary if this is a true Motion to Dismiss. Motions to Dismiss are usually decided on what is pled within the four corners of the Complaint. Once you start getting into facts which aren’t pled by the plaintiff and start dealing with issues of proof, this is something which should be treated as a motion for summary judgment, even if it is called a Motion to Dismiss by the filing party. Certainly for a Motion for Summary Judgment, the opposing party should be allowed time to conduct reasonable discovery into the issues raised by the motion.

      If you’re specifically referring to the issue of the signature of the “agent” of the landlord, if the court cannot tell from the face of the contract itself (which is considered part of the Complaint, because it was attached to it) that he clearly signed in his capacity as agent, the Motion to Dismiss should be denied. If the defendant files an affidavit saying that he signed as an agent, the court should convert the Motion to Dismiss into a Motion for Summary Judgment and allow you time to conduct discovery to dispute the claim.

  6. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Thanks ! forever grateful !

  7. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Hope all is well with you.

    Florida Civil Procedure RULE 1.140 DEFENSES (b) states;
    ” No defense or objection is waived by being joined with other defenses or objections in a responsive pleading or motion”. What does that mean?

    Thanks,
    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Generally, this part of the rule will apply when a defendant has challenged the personal jurisdiction of the court. It means that even though he is challenging personal jurisdiction (one of the enumerated defenses under the rule), he is still entitled to raise every other applicable defense (e.g., failure to state a cause of action, improper venue, etc.) without waiving his defense that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over him. Look at this case as an example, where the appellate court overturned the lower court’s erroneous ruling that a defendant challenging venue had thereby waived his defense of lack of personal jurisdiction.

      There may be other ways in which this wording may come into play, but I think it’s main usage will be to prevent courts from asserting that they have personal jurisdiction over a defendant merely because he filed a motion to dismiss which included other defenses under this rule.

  8. Chris says:

    Husband & wife are in pro per in a personal injury case, listed as separate plaintiffs. Wife was the one injured, husband is on as a loss of consortium claim. Receive a single set of interrogatories. Asks “Plaintiff” (singular) to answer them. Do we send a letter back, saying we aren’t responding to the interrogatories because they don’t say who should answer them? Do we both answer them? (Separately, of course) Do we just assume they’re intended for the wife? My reaction is to deem these as invalid, and demand a new one(s) to be sent that specifically says who should respond.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You should just call the firm that sent the interrogatories and ask them. That’s what a lawyer would do. They’d probably have no problem sending you an e-mail or letter confirming it, if you’re concerned about them later denying what was said over the phone (which I don’t really see as a likely possibility). Rather than make this needlessly contentious by trying to jerk them around on a clerical error, you’d probably benefit down the road from being reasonable here. This is especially true if you need some more time to answer the discovery — just ask them for it, and if you’ve been reasonable so far, they’ll probably agree without a problem. If you’re reasonable, they’ll usually be reasonable right back.

  9. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    I am about to conduct discovery for the first time. When it comes to discovery is there a preferred sequence in conducting discovery. For example should a deposition be taken before, during or after production? What about interrogatories and admissions? Thank you!

    Respectfully,

    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Typically, you send out interrogatories and a request for production first (along with a request for admissions, if you plan to send one at all). You set the deposition after you have gotten the written discovery responses back so you can question the party about his or her answers.

  10. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    I filed a complaint for damages with many counts. Defendants responded to all counts except for all counts alleging slander per se. I filed a motion for default with the court regarding the counts alleging slander per se. I am thinking of adding a motion for leave to amend complaint and add punitive damages. Is this the time to file that motion. If not when do you suggest?

    Best,

    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I wouldn’t get my hopes up about making that motion for default stick. At worst, the defendants will seek leave to amend their answer and the court will almost surely grant it, saying that it was excusable neglect and that you suffered no prejudice due to their oversight. Still, it will poke them in the eye, so it was worth doing if just for that purpose.

      As long as you have sufficient evidence to present at a hearing to support your claim for punitive damages, there’s no need to wait. For the sake of other readers who are unfamiliar with Florida’s rules on requesting punitive damages, by statute (Fla.Stat. §768.72(1)) a plaintiff can’t ask for them in his initial complaint (except in cases brought under the Florida Civil Rights Act — the only exception of which I am aware), so he has to file a complaint without a punitive damages claim, then afterward file a motion to amend the complaint to add the claim, after which the court will hold a hearing at which the plaintiff must make a “reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages”. It’s usually more of a nuisance than an actual tort reform measure.

  11. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Thanks for the info. I appreciate it.

    charlie

  12. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Are there any particular sources found at a law library you would suggest to learn about the discovery process ?

    Respectfully,

    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Well, it really depends on what you’re specifically looking for. For strategies, you could try looking at the library’s CLE materials, which are hit or miss as to what topics they’ll have and may be a bit dated, but for discovery this wouldn’t really make too much difference as it isn’t an area of law that changes very much over time. For a general overview, I’d start with Florida Jurisprudence (known in the legal community as Fla Jur — pronounced FLAH-Jer) and Trawick’s (TRAY-wick) Florida Practice and Procedure, which any decent law library will have.

      If you’re looking for how part of a rule is interpreted, try Florida Statutes Annotated (even though it says statutes, it also covers the rules of civil procedure). You look up the rule in question, and it lists underneath select cases (separated by topic) which interpret the rule, including a brief summary of the ruling. Don’t forget to check the pocket part (the addendum attached to the back cover of the book) for updated cases.

  13. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    I am mostly concerned with conducting discovery well. For example requesting the right documents, the right communications, the right interrogatories, etc.

    Gratefully,
    Charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I doubt you’ll find many resources to help you do that. While you may be able to find some form discovery (there are actually form interrogatories at the end of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure for personal injury cases) to give you some ideas for general questions that pertain to most litigation, your case is kind of unusual. I would be surprised if you could find anything specific to the types of claims you are pursuing.

      What most lawyers do is ask all the general litigation-type questions that apply to pretty much all types of cases at the beginning of their discovery requests, and then they make up their own case-specific questions from scratch after those. Really it’s just a matter of knowing what you need to help your case and making your requests specific enough so that the other side knows what you’re asking.

  14. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Thank you !

    Charlie

  15. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,
    I filed a complaint for damages with many counts. Defendants responded by filing a motion to dismiss all counts except for counts alleging slander per se. I filed a motion for default with the court regarding only the counts alleging slander per se. Defendants claim their motion to dismiss the other counts tolls the time to respond to the slander per se claims. Specifically defendants motion states once the Defendants filed their motion to dismiss, they were not required to file their answer until l0 days after this Court either denied the motion or postponed its disposition until a trial on the merits. Does a motion to dismiss toll the time for claims not addressed in their motion to dismiss?

    Respectfully,
    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      While there aren’t any cases (none that I could find, at least) that specifically interpret whether Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.140(a)(3)’s provision that the service of a motion to dismiss tolls the time for a responsive pleading (answer) applies in your situation, if I had to bet, I’d say that the court would find that it does. This question has also cropped up in federal courts, with the majority deciding that a partial motion to dismiss tolls the time for the defendant to respond to all counts. There are a minority of federal courts who agreed with you that an answer is required for any counts not addressed in the motion, so your interpretation isn’t totally crazy.

      Ultimately, though, it won’t make any difference in your case. The ambiguity in the rule would be sufficient “excusable neglect” for the court to set aside any default that would be entered, even assuming it agrees with you that tolling shouldn’t apply to the slander per se count.

  16. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    As always I have great appreciation for your service.

    Respectfully,

    charlie

  17. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Sorry to disappoint you but here I am again. Todays question is must a plaintiff respond to a motion to dismiss and if Plaintiff does not have to and therefore doesnt what are the pitfalls in not responding.

    Respectfully,

    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Technically, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure don’t require you to file a written response to a Motion to Dismiss. The defendant would have to set a hearing, and you can just show up and argue against the motion without having filed anything in writing. I don’t recommend that, but I don’t see any harm in waiting until he sets the motion for a hearing to prepare and file a written response. Note that a written response can be required by order of the court (such as a “show cause” order) or through some locally adopted procedural rule (although I’m not aware of any state courts in Florida that have one like this).

  18. charlie says:

    hi fl_litig8r ,

    once again THANKS !

  19. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Defendants filed a motion to dismiss employing the affirmative defense res judicata. Defendants also filed a motion to enforce an agreement to rescind a settlement agreement. The motions seem to me to be diametrically opposed. Do you see it differently?

    Respectfully,
    charlie

    • fl_litig8r says:

      This is very similar to what’s known as “pleading in the alternative”, and it is allowed. Basically, you’re arguing that you’re entitled to one of the inconsistent forms of relief that you’re requesting, not both. The court doesn’t force parties to gamble on only one argument if they have multiple, inconsistent arguments to make that depend on a court’s rulings or a jury’s findings. You can plead them all, but you can only win on one (if any).

  20. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Thanks for making sense of the situation.

    Respectfully,

    charlie

  21. Michael [last name removed by admin] says:

    In a civil lawsuit, can plaintiffs attorney request my SSS# in interrogatories.
    Case was filed in State of arizona.

  22. charlie says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    Trust you are doing well. I filed a claim for IIED. Case was settled. The settlement was breached. I have filed a new claim for breach of settlement and IIED. The IIED claim is based upon events post settlement. Since repeated and prolonged conduct is legally recognized to support outrageous conduct may I use the pre settlement conduct in my new claim for IIED?

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You won’t be able to recover damages for both the breach of the settlement and for the pre-settlement conduct, because that would be double dipping. However, I do think that pre-settlement conduct should be admissible for other purposes related to the post-settlement conduct, as you suggest. For example, it could be used to show that the post-settlement conduct was intended to cause distress, and wasn’t merely negligent, because it was part of a larger pattern that they knew caused you distress in the past.

  23. charlie says:

    THANKS!

  24. Dee says:

    Hi ~
    My 15 yo son was struck as a pedestrian in FL and critically injured. My focus on him has been his recovery. Person who hit him had the minimum required insurance and we are at 20 x that amount with his care thus far. We are from a different state. As I seek legal representation should I retain a Florida attorney or an attorney from our home state (which does not currently have tort reform limits)? Additionally both parties have the same auto insurance companies so it is not like I have confidence in my insurance company going after theirs. Ridiculous that my auto insurance should even come into play since my child was a pedestrian. Since this will most likely be an insurance issue I’m torn on who I should have representing my child’s interests (FL vs. my home state). Even at my max, the bills will be more than the coverage and the attorney at minimum will get a third. Don’t even know where to begin in Florida and the couple that I have reached out to only seemed willing to help AFTER they find out my limits on my policy. An easy $80,000 plus while I’ll still be left with substantial bills beyond the limit of my policy.

    • fl_litig8r says:

      You should hire a Florida lawyer to handle the matter against the at-fault driver. If you need to sue, it will be in a Florida court and Florida law will apply. If you will need to sue your own insurer for a UIM claim, it’s likely that your own state’s laws will apply because that is where the insurance contract was issued. They could be sued in your own state or as a co-defendant in the Florida lawsuit, depending on how your state’s UIM laws work (these vary widely, and some states only allow arbitration).

      In short, you may need a lawyer from each state to handle the claims against the at-fault driver and your own insurer. However, with your son’s injuries being so severe and the Florida driver having minimal coverage (there actually is no requirement for Florida drivers to carry BI coverage, and many don’t), you may just want to demand the policy limits from the Florida insurer yourself. Send them a demand letter (I go into all this in other articles) with a 30-day deadline. If they fail to pay within that time, hire a Florida lawyer immediately because they may have exposed themselves to a bad faith claim which would allow you to recover your full damages regardless of policy limits. If they do pay up immediately, you just saved yourself an attorney’s fee for that part of the claim.

  25. Leatine says:

    Do I have to answer personal question in a interrogatory
    Like how many children I have? what is my spouse name ? and my tax information. What elementary, middle, high school I attended etc. Basically do I have to answer questions that I believe a not related to the auto accident

    • fl_litig8r says:

      Yes, you do. Many questions that seem unrelated are fair game in a lawsuit because the standard for discovery is extremely broad — much broader than the standard for admissibility. In general, you’re allowed to ask about anything that might reasonably lead to admissible evidence — the thing you ask for need not be admissible itself.

      Just using your examples, the number of children you have might lead to how you care for them in light of your injuries, which is relevant to your damages (if you care for them just fine, maybe your injuries aren’t that bad and if you can’t care for them as well as you could, they need to know this to evaluate your claim). If any are old enough, they may be witnesses who need to be deposed. Even if the answers you give show that this is a dead end, the defendant is entitled to find that out for themselves. Schools (especially elementary and middle) might seem completely ridiculous to ask about, but what if that leads them to where you lived, somewhere you may not have disclosed, and from that it leads to medical records or a criminal record in that city which you hadn’t disclosed? Again, this isn’t a likelihood, but it could happen, and the defendant is entitled to explore this avenue if it wants to spend the time doing so.

      Asking about your spouse is a no-brainer. Who would know better about how your injuries affect you than your spouse? Also, the spouse may have consortium claim. Tax information is absolutely fair game if you’ve made a wage loss claim. If you haven’t, it could be objectionable (though there are cases where it could be discoverable even where no wage loss claim is made).

      You should read this article I wrote about the various reasons defense attorneys ask for things in discovery.

  26. Paul [last name removed by admin] says:

    Hi fl_litig8r,

    I am a defendant/counter plaintiff in a civil action in Florida which began more than 5 years ago. The counter defendant is/was a public company registered in Nevada, however is now listed as “dissolved” on the Nevada Secretary of State website. The company due to it’s actions, in large part involving their actions against me, has been sanctioned by the SEC making the use of this company as a “shell” in other ventures, highly unlikely. The principal of the company boasts that he holds all personal assets “offshore” and is therefore judgement proof. He is quite litigious, this is my first.

    My counter claim involves (1) breach of employment contract, (2) piercing the corporate veil, and (3) defamation.

    The original complaint against me was initiated, in my opinion, solely to obtain a default judgement (I live outside of Florida). Fortunately, I was able to respond in a timely manner with the help of a Florida lawyer.

    I filed a counter suit. I believe that, even if I were to obtain a judgement against the company and principal, my chances of recovery of anything are slim and none. Not having large corporate resources to waste, I am pro se now for the past several years.

    Recently, after more than another year of inaction, the court issued an order to dismiss with a 60 day grace period. The counter defendant subsequently issued me damage interrogatories. (the original interrogatory– 4 years ago– was more than 90 questions, upon reading the statute, I answered the first 30 questions only unless they could show leave of the Court).

    While I will answer the damage interrogatories– I can’t thank you enough for your strategies laid out in your blog!– I have a couple of questions:

    (1) can I address the Court directly asking for a dismissal of the original complaint, and if so, what grounds are acceptable.

    (2) can a company not in good standing, i.e. “dissolved”, continue to string out a civil suit in Florida indefinitely?

    (3) Is there a limit on how many interrogatories can be issued?

    (4) The damage interrogatory addresses any “claimed privilege” that I might have– does this refer to any exhibits sent, or to be sent, that might contain privileged or confidential information and are not for disclosure? (i.e. contracts, intellectual property information etc.)

    (5) As my counter claim was in oath form, can I hand pick up to 30 questions in my own interrogatory to the counter defendant?

    I suspect that my only recourse in this matter is to make things too expensive/tedious for the counter defendant to continue. They certainly have more resources than I do, and they cannot afford to have a judgement against the principal who is an officer in several public companies, but they refuse to allow for dismissal by the Court. Not wishing to waste any more time on this, I would just as soon wash my hands of all of this mess.

    Thanks in advance for your attention!

    • fl_litig8r says:

      1) Dismissal at this point for anything other than failure to prosecute seems unlikely. Most grounds for dismissal must be pled in the defendant’s initial response, and if they aren’t pled there, they are considered waived. So, unless you’ve been sitting on a defense that was initially raised and never argued (like lack of personal jurisdiction), I don’t think dismissal is something possible at this point. Typically, after a case has gone on this long a defendant might try to get summary judgment, but that requires submission of fact-based evidence, like depositions, affidavits and interrogatory answers showing that based on the relevant undisputed facts, the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

      2) This case indicates that it can as long as this suit is part of winding up the now-defunct corporation. If they filed suit after they already dissolved, that would be another matter.

      3) As you have already pointed out, Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.340 limits the number of interrogatories (including subparts) to 30, without leave of court based on good cause shown. Most attorneys are flexible about this within reason, but you don’t have to be. You can simply refuse to answer any interrogatories beyond the original 30 sent. Sending another set after the first doesn’t mean you get 30 more, at least without prior leave of court.

      4) I’m not sure what privileges there are that might apply to your answers. Typically, you’re only dealing with the attorney-client and work product privilege, but in a case involve trade secrets, that privilege could apply as well.

      5) I have no idea what your connection is between your counterclaim being sworn and your choice of interrogatories. As your case doesn’t fit the mold of one of the cases for which the Florida Supreme Court has mandated certain interrogatories (a mandate that is commonly ignored, by the way), you can ask whatever you want in your initial interrogatories.

      • Paul says:

        Thank you so much for the erudite thoughts. If I can’t get a dismissal, then the idea of pursuing a summary judgement is intriguing if I can limit the scope to the 1st Count of Breach of Employment Contract. It’s the most cut and dried of all the Counts and I have supporting documentary evidence that is undisputed. I am quite confident that the Court will find in my favor.

        It is my understanding that Florida is generally hard on companies with regard to enforcing employment contracts. Should I be able to put together a succinct argument replete with supporting docs, the other side may choose to mutually settle rather than risk a judgement.

        It’s worth a try!

        Again, thank you for your thoughts on this, much appreciated.

        • fl_litig8r says:

          You can move for partial summary judgment as to only one count (or even one issue), so you can target just the breach of employment contract claim if you want.

  27. Lisa [last name removed by admin] says:

    I am struggling with the drafting of interrogatories directed to an electric company in a low-hanging power line/electrocution case. Can you recommend any good sites for samples? Thank you!

    • fl_litig8r says:

      I don’t know about websites that provide form interrogatories, but there are certain books which can be found in a law library (usually your local courthouse will have one) that have these for different types of cases. Before you get optimistic though, usually these forms are only available for common types of cases, like personal injury, medical malpractice, employment discrimination, civil rights and similar subjects. Your type of suit seems very specific and uncommon, so I doubt that you’ll find form interrogatories for the specific issues you want. General person injury interrogatory forms will help, but I’d be shocked of you found anything specific to power lines.

      To get you started, here’s a link to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, which contain form interrogatories to a personal injury defendant in Appendix I, Form 2 (page 259) (big pdf warning). You may not be in Florida, but the questions are fairly general and will be fine for use in most states. You’ll need to make up your own custom questions about the power line issues.

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