I have a personal injury lawsuit. My lawyer sent the driver who caused the wreck interrogatories. We just got back the answers and some of those answers are bald-faced lies. Why does he get to lie? How can we make him tell the truth?
Interrogatories are written questions sent from one party in a lawsuit to an opposing party about issues related to the lawsuit. For example, in a lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle collision, each driver may send interrogatories to the other ask for driving histories, including whether the opposing driver has ever received a driving citation. The party responding to interrogatories must sign a statement swearing or affirming that the responses to the interrogatories are true.
If a person does not tell the truth in response to an interrogatory, the untruth will hurt that person at trial. The degree of harm a person does to his case when he does not tell the truth depends on many factors. For instance, was the untruth intentional or just careless? Was the untruth about a relatively minor thing or a major thing? Is there a single untruth or are there multiple untruths? When confronted with the untruth, did the person admit it or deny it? There are other factors as well, but you get the point: the circumstances control how much harm a mistake or lie in answers to interrogatories (or in oral testimony at a deposition or trial for that matter) will hurt one’s case or help the opponent’s case.
Neither you, your lawyer nor the judge can force any witness to tell the truth. A judge can require a person to answer questions, but cannot require truthful answers. Judges can punish people for giving untruthful answers when the untruths are exposed, and that punishment can be a minor as imposing certain litigation costs on that party to actually initiating a perjury charge. Perjury charges almost certainly arise out of untruths in a civil case.
So how do you get the person to stop making false statements in answers to interrogatories? Share with your lawyer any evidence you have that the other person has lied, and then let your lawyer do his or her job. The beauty of cross-examination is that it can expose a liar. It does not always work, but many a liar has been exposed on cross-examination at a deposition or at trial. If the liar is exposed it actually will help your case, especially if the lie is about a material fact in your case.