Form Interrogatories in California Personal Injury Litigation: What are they good for?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Form interrogatories are questions that can be used in civil discovery to find out information about other parties, including information like a party’s name, information about their case, and other information, such as contentions.  The plus is they are cheap to serve.  The minus is they often are not particulary useful.

Form interrogatories are a good tool, but like any tool, they need to be used for their intended purpose.  They are not the end-all, be-all of discovery.  They are designed to do some things, but not others.

California has form interrogatories created by the Judicial Council.   There are general civil law interrogatories applicable to an unlimited civil case (though be warned, there are times that it does not make sense to use them, like in eminent domain proceedings, where they are far too general and rarely relevant to the proceedings).

The general civil form interrogatories, Judicial Council Form DISC-001, have instructions on the front, an opportunity to define the term “INCIDENT” and various interrogatories.  There are also form interrogatories for limited civil cases, unlawful detainer actions, and employment law cases.

Form interrogatories are easy to use, because they involve checking boxes.  The advantage to form interrogatories is that they do not count  (in unlimited civil cases ONLY) towards the rule of 35 for specially prepared interrogatories.  California Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.740(a).  Form interrogatories do count against the grab bag rule of 35 in limited civil cases, so they should be use very judiciously.

Typically, I will use form interrogatories in every personal injury case.  When I was doing personal injury defense, I would serve them as soon as possible after being served, or no later than when the answer.  I also use them judiciously.  Some of them do not apply in every case.   Sometimes, subsequent sets are needed, particularly for the use of Form Interrogatory No. 17.1, in conjunction with the service of Requests for Admission.

Form Interrogatories should not be served on a personal injury defendant without leave of court before the first of ten days after service of summons, or the defendant’s appearance. California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.020(a).

The problems with responses to  interrogatories is that they are often bloated and written by attorneys, chock full of objections.  Responses are painfully slow, with a minimum of thirty days after personal service.  Often the information sought in form interrogatories is better obtained in a deposition.  Interrogatories are also available only to parties.  California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.010(a).

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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