What Are Interrogatories?

Interrogatory is a fancy legal word for written question. Interrogatories are written questions that a party to a lawsuit must answer after a case is filed.

The interrogatories you answer are set forth in the New Jersey Court Rules. In any personal injury case, you will answer Form A. If you are injured by medical malpractice, you will also answer Form A(1). In most Product Liability cases, you will also answer Form A(2).

If your car has been damaged, and the insurance company has refused to pay for it, then you would answer Form B.These claims are almost always paid soon after the collision, and are therefore not a part of the lawsuit.

The Court Rules allow for up to 10 additional interrogatories to be asked, in addition to these sets of questions. They are often improperly asked, whether they assume facts that don’t exist or for some other reason(s). Therefore, like anything else in litigation, these should be reviewed carefully with your attorney.Therefore, like anything else in litigation, I will explain each step to you.

There are deadlines in which these interrogatories have to be answered, and the deadlines are getting more and more strict. Do not delay in giving this information to your lawyer.

What is the Verbal Threshold/Limited Tort Option?

Do not choose “verbal threshold” on your automobile policy!

Do choose “no threshold” on your automobile policy!

The Verbal Threshold, also known as lawsuit threshold, or limitation on lawsuit option, is a terrible selection on your automobile insurance policy. This cheap coverage significantly limits your rights, your spouse’s rights, and the rights of your children.

Most people don’t know what this is until I explain it to them when they are in my office, after a tragedy has occurred. By having this cheaper ‘verbal threshold’ on your car insurance you have probably pre-waived your right to a jury trial as well as your spouse’s right and your children’s rights [if they were injured] as your selection applies to spouses and your children who live with you.

Your case will only get to a trial if significant legal obstacles are overcome.

If these legal hurdles are not met your case will be kicked out by a judge before ever going to trial, and this is true even though:

  • The defendant admitted causing the crash;
  • The defendant was drunk or high at the time of the collision;
  • Your car was totaled;
  • You [your spouse/children] are in pain everyday and your injuries limit what you are able to do; and/or
  • You [your spouse/children] have permanent injuries!

Knowing this, why would you potentially give up rights in a situation that you can’t predict? Some crashes are minor, and don’t cause much harm, but too many others are serious.

My mother has “no threshold” in her car insurance policy, not because I want her to spend a few hundred dollars more a year on her auto insurance, but because I want to make sure her rights are protected if something happened to her. I recommend the same to you, your family and your friends.

Verbal Threshold = Bad

No Threshold = Good

If your insurance company or agent pushes this lousy “verbal threshold” coverage to you, I find that suspicious. Insurance agents work on commission, a percentage of the sale, why would they be trying to sell you something cheaper? I also work on commission called a contingency fee – what if I told you not to accept an offer and told you to take less? In that example I would not be doing you a service, and neither is your broker if they are trying to sell you this garbage.

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is a hearing where you are asked questions by a defense attorney after being placed under oath. It is almost always at one of the lawyer’s offices, but sometimes it takes place at a courthouse or some other location for purposes of convenience. You’re first sworn in by this stenographer (who types everything spoken into a booklet), and then the questioning begins.

Defense counsel will begin with some instruction as to how depositions proceed. You will be informed that answers must be spoken, to not begin your answer until the defense attorney has finished asking it, and other basic ground rules that I would have already explained to you. Some defense attorneys might say that they are not there to trick you, and some of them actually mean that. Most of the defense attorneys are competent and skilled professionals, but some of them try to trick you with improper questions. Try to listen carefully to the questions before answering them.

I expect that you will be nervous about this, but that’s common as this is probably something you are not familiar with. In addition, you will be questioned by the trial attorney hired by the defendant’s insurance company, and they have a job to do – for the most part this means to eliminate or reduce your compensation. This can be accomplished by discrediting you. But keep in mind that this is a simple hearing and your are going to be asked questions about accident, your work and school histories, your course of medical treatment, your life as it was before the injury, and how your life has changed because of the accident.

If you don’t remember an answer, then that is your answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, then you answer that you don’t know. Simply testify as to what you know, and do the best you can without guessing at anything. For example, the defense attorney has all of the documents in front of him/her, including medical bills with the dates you saw the doctors. If he/she asks when was the first time you saw Dr. X and if you remember the date, say so. If you don’t remember exactly but you recall it was within a week or two of the collision, then that’s your estimate. But by no means should you guess. Guessing, even in attempt to be helpful, is not truthful and in effect may be the wrong answer. Answer the best you can, truthfully, without guessing.

Why Do I have to see the defense attorney’s doctor?

The lawsuit’s purpose is to obtain fair compensation for your injuries, and the other harm or damages caused to you. In order to prove the nature and extent of your injuries, one or more of your doctors will have to testify at trial.

The defense attorney has a job to do, and part of it involves hiring an expert witness for trial. Their doctor is hired to take a look at you and write a report for the defense of your lawsuit. You are not their patient. These doctors are not employed to treat you, or help you in any way for that matter – they are expert witnesses for hire, ultimately to testify for the defense at trial.

Defense attorneys hire doctors who make good witnesses. They have very good credentials, and are professional testifiers. They are often board certified, Ivy League-trained orthopedists with privileges in a hospital, and are from the same pool of experts that I see over and over again. Not surprisingly, they have the same opinions over and over again. Their opinions almost always contradict the opinions of your treating doctor(s) and support the defense attorney’s arguments that:

– You are not injured, or

– Or if you are hurt, you have healed and have no permanent injury, or

– You do have a permanent injury but it was caused by something else besides the defendants negligence – they may blame your condition on age, another accident, or anything else besides the defendant’s carelessness.

In theory, the defense attorney’s entitlement to such an examination makes sense, but in reality it more often than not further victimizes you. You may be insulted by how brief their “examination” is, but I’m sure you will be more insulted by what they write in the report to the defense attorney.

Nevertheless, you are obligated to see their lawyer’s expert, and please give them the benefit of the doubt, and arrive on-time for the appointment, and bring whatever films or x-rays you have in your possession. If the doctor wishes to take x-rays or any other test, decline to do so – this is not for treatment and it is an unnecessary exposure to radiation (which you have already undergone). If they insist, please have them call my office while you are there. If their doctor requests copies of a certain film let him/her know that you will contact me and I will try to obtain whatever information this doctor requests, within reason.

My case is scheduled for arbitration, what does that mean?

Arbitration is a general term, which is a hearing where a dispute is settled by an arbitrator. There are many types of arbitrations, for example, some are binding decisions and some are not. The type of arbitration I described here is a hearing in your civil case, which is scheduled by the court, and takes place at the courthouse.

A court-scheduled arbitration is an informal hearing. The court lists a number of cases on particular days, and the first cases ready go first. Once the case is ready, the attorneys go into a small room with a conference table and chairs, and speak to the arbitrator. Each attorney explains to the arbitrator what the case is about, which means that I explain what your damages are and whatever the defendant did/didn’t do, and the other attorney(ies) explain that the doctor they hired wrote a report saying that you weren’t hurt, that your injuries already existed, that your injuries were caused by something else, or some combination of these arguments.

It is the arbitrator’s call whether or not he or she will hear testimony from you. Although you may be present in the courthouse, that doesn’t mean that you will testify. Assuming that you are called into the room by the arbitrator, either the arbitrator or I will begin the questioning. The questioning will be limited because the arbitrator, the other attorney(ies) and I have already gone over the issues in the case, and your testimony would serve to supplement some portions of it.

You should be familiar in general with the facts of the accident, the course of treatment that you have undergone, and any treatment that you are still undergoing (if any). Most importantly, you should be able to communicate the continuing problems that you have from the injuries, your present complaints and how they affect your life.

At the end of the brief hearing, the arbitrator will issue an award. The arbitrator will decide percentages of liability or fault, and will also make a determination as to what he/she feels the damages are in your case. This is not a binding arbitration, and not a final decision. Both sides have 30 days to eliminate this award, and in order to do so, it is a matter of sending out a $200.00 check and completing and serving a simple form. However, if neither side eliminates the award within 30 days, then the arbitration award becomes binding. We will discuss the fairness of the award after the arbitration hearing. As always, if you have any questions or need directions to the courthouse please call my office. Thank you.