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#1
Old 11-01-2004, 07:12 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Tornado Alley
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So what happens if I don't answer the lawyer's questions?

After an auto accident, I got served. I got pages & pages of "interrogatories," some of which are tedious & irrelevant, some of which my insurance company has better information on than I do. Can I just tell my lawyer, "The insurance agency has my testimony from months ago when it was still fresh in my mind, ask them."? Can I just refuse to participate in my own defense against what is, in my opinion, a suit that doesn't meet the plaintiff's burden of proof?

What happens if I just throw out the papers & ignore all the calls?
#2
Old 11-01-2004, 07:20 PM
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Speak to your own attorney -- i.e., the one your insurance company retained -- about what you need to do. Some response is required under many states' civil-suit codes, but not necessarily whatever the opposing attorney wants to dig for.

We had one of these in a court case last year, and quite frankly, some of the elements deserved a NOYB if that. He advised us as to the purpose of the interrogatories and the apparently off-topic questions, and suggested how to respond to them. On two questions, we filled in a brief, noncommital but true answer and the statement that if the opposing attorney wanted more information than we supplied, he needed to show the question's relevance to the case at hand. (He declined to do so.)
#3
Old 11-01-2004, 07:24 PM
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Oh, and as a P.S. to the previous post:

Based on my responses to the interrogatories, plus the fact that the opposing party had made some claims that were, to say the least, of dubious validity, we ended up settling out of court for $1.00 more than what the claims adjuster had offered initially to settle the case outside of court.

Which, amusingly, meant they were out $1,500 in legal fees, plus an undetermined amount in court costs, less $1.00, for not taking her settlement offer. :wally
#4
Old 11-01-2004, 07:46 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Quote:
Can I just tell my lawyer, "The insurance agency has my testimony from months ago when it was still fresh in my mind, ask them."?
Wait, are the questions from your lawyer or the other side's lawyer? If they're from your lawyer, he should be able to explain to you what's he's doing and why. If they're from the other side, your opponent might be trying to get as much as possible on paper, whether it seems relevant to you or not, to have a chance to trip you up if your answers contradict anything you said earlier or might say later. ("You say the car was dark gray? But last year you said it was faded black! You're not sure about anything, are you?") If somebody else's lawyer is coming after you, and you don't have your own lawyer, get one.
#5
Old 11-01-2004, 07:56 PM
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Typically -- at least in my experience -- the lawyer actually prepares the answers, after talking to his client and getting the necessary information. You shouldn't have to spend all that much time drafting them, although you will have to review them and, probably, sign an affidavit attesting that the answers are true.

As to whether they have to be answered at all, you should talk to your lawyer. The scope of discovery is pretty broad, so I wouldn't be surprised if you find that you have to answer some questions that seem irrelevant to you. (And even if your lawyer thinks a question is irrelevant, your lawyer will probably consider whether resisting the question will be more work that just answering it).

Quote:
Can I just refuse to participate in my own defense against what is, in my opinion, a suit that doesn't meet the plaintiff's burden of proof? What happens if I just throw out the papers & ignore all the calls?
That's probably a bad idea. Your insurance policy probably includes a provision requiring you to cooperate in your defense. If you don't, you might lose your insurance coverage and have to pay a judgment (or possibly even defense costs) out of your own pocket.
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