Can They Ask That?: Interrogatories in Car Accident Cases in Virginia
Shortly after filing your auto accident lawsuit, you can expect your lawyer to receive a set of questions from the defendant called “Interrogatories.” Interrogatories are the first step in the discovery process in Virginia. These are legal pleadings asking you to answer, under oath, a number of questions about the car crash, your medical treatment, medical history and other personal questions. The rules in Virginia require that they be answered within 21 days of receipt by your lawyer.
Some people are surprised at how personal the questions can get. We’ve seen questions like:
- List all your medical providers for the last several years.
- Give us every medical record ever created for you.
- Have you ever declared bankruptcy?
- Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
- Tell us about every other car accident you’ve been in.
- Tell us who you live with.
It’s important to remember a couple of things here. These questions are usually stock pleadings from defense counsel that are sent to every single Plaintiff in every single case that counsel has. They are not meant to embarrass you or make you feel attacked. If there is good legal reason for doing so, your own attorney will object to providing that information. After that, it is up to the defense to convince a Judge that he is entitled to know the answer.
Second, it is critically important that you tell your Virginia personal injury attorney absolutely everything about your case. Do not, under any circumstances, withhold information from your attorney about prior medical treatment, prior auto accidents, bankruptcy declarations or criminal convictions. Remember that you are answering the interrogatories under oath and penalty of perjury.
Withholding information can only hurt your case. If we know about your prior car accidents and injuries, we can review those records before the defense attorney does and can use it to either properly frame your case or adjust our settlement negotiation strategy. But if we don’t know about them first and it comes out either at deposition or trial that you are lying about a prior accident, a jury will never believe that you were injured in this case. Remember that the insurance industry has spent billions of dollars telling jurors that personal injury plaintiffs are liars, cheats and frauds. You are doing your case no favors by withholding anything from your own attorney.