Writing Interrogatories To Prove A PI Plaintiff’s Case
Many, if not most, tort cases arise out of motor vehicle accidents and are based on allegations of an individual negligently operating a motor vehicle. While mundane in the legal world, personal injury plaintiffs must prove each of the elements of negligence. Using interrogatories as a discovery tool can help attorneys develop the facts and identify the evidence necessary to prove each element.
First, any plaintiff’s attorney must design interrogatories to ascertain the basic facts about the accident. Any responses by a party to interrogatories relating to any person, event, or condition that is alleged by the defendant to have contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries will be directly probative on the issue of whether the defendant’s negligence was the cause in fact of the plaintiff’s damages.
Legal duties ordinarily arise from affirmative conduct undertaken by a defendant. In motor vehicle accident cases, the duty of due care arises from the defendant’s affirmative conduct in operating a motor vehicle. Interrogatories will seek to discover and establish the facts necessary to prove the affirmative conduct requirement.
Interrogatories directed toward the defendant’s conduct must seek any information necessary to establish the plaintiff’s contention that the defendant failed to act as would a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.
It is necessary to design interrogatories to reveal whether the defendant will contend that the accident was caused by a third party, a vehicle defect, a weather condition, or other cause. These interrogatories may also reveal any claim of comparative fault on the part of the plaintiff, as well as any other pertinent facts.
Interrogatories based on these questions should be included to identify any exculpatory facts regarding the defendant’s conduct early in the proceedings. A plaintiff must consider restricting the scope of these questions since their use may suggest a defensive position to the defendant that he or she has not yet considered.
Specific interrogatories about damages should identify the defendant’s contentions regarding general and special damages and ascertain the known facts regarding these damages.
A good outline is as follows:
- Interrogatories Relating to Accident Facts
- Defendant’s Contentions re Accident Cause
- General Details Regarding Accident
- Defendant’s Activities on Day of Accident
- Defendant’s Contentions re Plaintiff’s Speed
- Defendant’s Contentions re Defendant’s Speed
- Defendant’s Contentions re Unavoidable Accident
- Defendant’s Contentions re Visibility
- Defendant’s Vision and Hearing
- Defendant’s Contentions re Roadway Details
- Defendant’s Contentions re Traffic Regulations, Traffic Lights and Stop Signs
- Defendant’s Contentions re Fatigue
- Alcohol and Drug Use by Defendant
- Defendant’s Driving Experience and License Status
- Defendant Supplying Alcohol to Vehicle Driver
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