Attorney-Client Privilege in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
As you proceed through your personal injury lawsuit, you are likely to have a few privacy concerns. There are often embarrassing facts or statistics that for any number of reasons you’d rather keep to yourself. Although your desire for secrecy could adversely affect the outcome of your case, the last thing you’d want is to have these matters surface publicly in the courtroom during trial.
Fortunately, the concept of attorney-client privilege should put your fears to rest. The ruling is one that protects you by allowing communications between you and your personal injury attorney to remain confidential both inside and outside the walls of the courtroom. The reasoning is simple. No lawyer can help you without knowing the facts behind your case. When you feel comfortable about revealing sensitive information, you give your personal injury attorney the ammunition he needs to provide you with adequate representation.
Does Attorney-Client Privilege Apply in Your Case?
As much as you might like this rule to cover all the bases, certain limits do come into play. You can’t count on everything you say in all situations never seeing the light of day. Your revelations are only kept secret when:
- The attorney to whom you reveal them is a member in good standing of the bar in your state.
- You and the attorney are either discussing a potential working relationship or have already entered into one.
- You divulge the information one-on-one in a private setting with no one but you and your attorney present.
- The information directly relates to your legal issue.
- The lawyer in question is functioning in a professional capacity.
- You refrain from repeating the conversation to a third party after the fact.
As a rule of testimony, the attorney-client privilege prevents anyone from forcing your attorney to divulge your secrets in a court of law. As an additional layer of protection, your lawyer also owes you a duty of confidentiality that legally binds him or her to keep under wraps nearly every piece of information related to your case, even if the relevant facts come to him from someone other than you.
Attorney-client privilege applies with equal force to both oral and written communications. Regardless of how he has obtained the information, your lawyer cannot repeat your personal confidences to anyone outside the legal team without your explicit consent. With few exceptions, this privilege remains in perpetuity. The protections begin with the initial consultation and stay in place even if you later choose to decline the services of that particular lawyer. They will outlive the relationship with your attorney and continue even after you die. You may at some point choose to waive this advantage, but your legal team never can.
When Attorney-Client Privilege Doesn’t Apply
Despite its advantages to you, there will be times and conditions under which the law or public policy will override the attorney-client privilege, waiving its restrictions and permitting your attorney to reveal your statements in court. Specifically, the privilege does not protect:
- Advice given to you for non-legal reasons. If, for example, you ask your personal injury attorney to recommend a good physical therapist or question him about the wisdom of jogging in your leg cast, attorney-client privilege will not extend to protect that conversation.
- Information in the public domain. Facts that are readily available can never be held in confidence.
- Communication that takes place in a public setting or before at least one additional person. This would include such scenarios as asking a legal question at your child’s soccer match, copying your attorney on a private email, repeating an otherwise-protected conversation or forwarding an email from your attorney to a friend.
- Disclosing your intention to engage in some sort of illegal activity. If you communicate your desire to defraud the insurance agency and later proceed to do just that, attorney-client privilege will not protect you. Furthermore, if you should tell a member of your legal team that you plan to break the legs of the person who caused your injury or undertake some action that is sure to cause death or bodily harm, he or she will have the legal and moral responsibility to reveal your objective before you get the chance to carry it out.
Always Check with Your Attorney
If you feel uncomfortable about giving out the personal details of your case or are unsure whether attorney-client privilege applies in your circumstances, it’s best to find out before coming to regret that you ever opened your mouth. The laws concerning attorney-client privilege can vary from one location to another. For this reason, it is imperative that you ask your lawyer to outline the extent of your protections before divulging personal information that you’d rather keep off the record.
If you would like more information or wish to speak with an attorney about your personal injury case, feel free to call Weiner Law Group 702-202-0500 at your earliest opportunity. We will be happy to explain your rights under attorney-client privilege in Nevada, and if you choose to avail yourself of our expert representation, we will use every means at our disposal to win the compensation you deserve.