Breaking Down Attorney-Client Privilege: What it Means and How it Can Affect Your Case
Ryan Zavodnick | June 20, 2022 | Personal Injury
When you meet with a personal injury lawyer, you want to be assured that your conversation is private and confidential. Some details of your accident and injury might be sensitive. You also do not want what you say to the attorney to be used against you during your personal injury case.
Attorney-client privilege allows you to discuss your injuries and the accident with a lawyer without fear of the information being released without your consent.
What Is Privileged Information in a Personal Injury Case?
Privilege maintains the confidentiality and privacy of specific information. Without a justifiable legal reason, the court cannot compel you to disclose privileged information in court. Likewise, the other party cannot force you to give them the information during discovery.
Information you tell your lawyer is protected by attorney-client privilege, except in a few cases. Therefore, what you tell your attorney remains between you and your lawyer. The attorney-client privilege applies in all types of cases, including personal injury cases.
Your lawyer needs to know everything about your case. That includes your injuries and how those injuries impact your daily life. The attorney needs to know everything about how the accident occurred and how it resulted in your injury.
If your attorney does not have all the information about your case, it could impact the legal strategy used to seek compensation for your injuries. The last place your attorney needs to learn critical information about your case is during settlement negotiations or at trial.
When Does Attorney-Client Privilege Apply in a Personal Injury Case
Attorney-client privilege is covered under Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 501. The following requirements must be met before your conversations with your injury lawyer are considered privileged:
- The conversation took place between you and your lawyer
- The purpose of your conversation was to obtain legal advice from the attorney about a legal matter
- The attorney acted in their professional capacity as an attorney-at-law during the meeting
- You expected the information you discussed with the lawyer to remain private and confidential
When you hire a lawyer, you are entitled to attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client relationship begins when you sign a retainer agreement or pay the lawyer to represent you. An attorney appearing in court on your behalf or filing court documents he signed as your lawyer is evidence of an attorney-client relationship.
Does Attorney-Client Privilege Apply to Free Consultations?
You do not pay a lawyer or hire a lawyer during a free consultation. Therefore, does attorney-client privilege apply to the information discussed during a free consultation?
A few sources argue that since you did not hire the lawyer, attorney-client privilege would not apply. However, most sources agree that privilege applies because a free consultation meets all of the above criteria for privileged information.
Ask the lawyer if you fear something you might say during a free consultation with a personal injury attorney would not be confidential. Once you confirm attorney-client privilege, you can feel free to talk about any information during your free consultation.
When Does Attorney-Client Privilege Not Apply in a Personal Injury Case?
The client can waive attorney-client privilege. If you waive attorney-client privilege for specific information, that information can be disclosed to other parties.
Furthermore, attorney-client privilege might not apply in all situations. Situations where privilege would not apply to a conversation between a lawyer and a client include:
- The lawyer represented two clients regarding the same matter, and one client then sues the other client
- Your conversation with the attorney took place in front of other individuals or in a public location
- You want legal advice to help you commit fraud
- Criminals using attorney-client privilege in prison to plan terrorist attacks
Specific information might not be privileged. For example, the discussions during a meeting with your attorney might be protected by the attorney-client privilege. However, the persons attending the meetings or the meeting date might not be privileged.
What Should You Do After an Accident or Injury?
The steps you take after an auto accident, slip and fall, or other personal injuries can impact the outcome of your case. You need to take steps to protect your right to compensation. Things you can do to improve your chance of recovering a fair settlement include:
- Document the accident and collect evidence by making a video, taking photographs, and asking witnesses for their contact information
- Seek immediate medical attention and follow through with your doctor’s treatment plan
- Document your damages by keeping copies of medical bills, receipts, records, and photographs of your injuries
- Avoid using social media or posting online while your case is pending
- Do not talk to the insurance company until after you seek legal advice
Before accepting a settlement offer or signing any documents, contact a personal injury lawyer for legal advice. The sooner you speak with an injury lawyer, the quicker you can learn about compensation for injuries and what you should do to recover money for your injury claim.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Philadelphia Today To Get Help With Your Case
To learn more and get the help you deserve, call Zavodnick & Lasky Personal Injury Lawyers at (215) 875-7030 or contact us online.
You can also visit our law firm at 123 S Broad St #1220, Philadelphia, PA 19109.