Interrogatories are part of the discovery process in a civil case. An interrogatory is a series of written questions asked by one party to another, which must be answered in writing. In Maryland motor vehicle accident cases, any party may serve written interrogatories to another party. The receiving party must answer interrogatories within 30 days after service or within 15 days after the date after the date when the party’s initial pleading or motion is required, whichever is later. Responses must be made under oath.
A recent case before a federal appeals court shows how failing to answer interrogatories completely and honestly can lead to much bigger problems down the road. In that case, a van had slipped off the edge of a roadway while carrying six family members—all were injured, and one family member died. The crash took place in a construction zone, where a guardrail had been removed and had not been replaced. The lines on the road also had not been repainted where it had been repaved, and there were pieces of asphalt on the shoulder.
The family sued the two construction companies that had repaved the road. The defense attorney for the companies told the plaintiffs that the two companies had a joint venture with a $1 million insurance policy. The defense attorney sent initial disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. In the disclosures, concerning the defendants’ insurance coverage, they listed the joint venture’s $1 million policy as their only insurance coverage. The parties settled for $1 million and signed a release stating that they were not relying on any statements by any parties’ attorneys.
Several years later, the plaintiffs found out that the companies also had their own separate liability policies. The plaintiffs filed a second lawsuit claiming that the defendants hid their available insurance coverage, that they should have disclosed their coverage under Rule 26, and that they settled for $1 million because that was the joint venture policy limit because of the misrepresentation.
A jury awarded the plaintiffs over $8 million in damages for negligent misrepresentation. On appeal, the appeals court held that the defendants may have acted negligently in misrepresenting their insurance coverage. However, the trial court improperly instructed the jury on specific issues instead of allowing it to decide the issues itself. For example, it should not have instructed the jury that the plaintiffs were justified on relying on the disclosures, and the court should have allowed the jury to decide the issue. Therefore, the court was required to conduct a new trial on the issue.
Contact a Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from a Maryland motor vehicle accident, speak with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling negligence claims. The attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, have decades of experience handling motor vehicle claims and would be happy to speak with you about your claim. Our Maryland accident attorneys are ready, willing, and able to help you and your family. Call toll-free to arrange a free, no-obligation initial consultation at (800) 654-1949 or by email or contact us online.