Is Everything I Tell My Personal Injury Lawyer Really Privileged?

Personal injury cases often require the disclosure of sensitive personal information. As a result, an accident victim may hesitate to contact an injury lawyer because of confidentiality reasons. Understanding attorney-client privilege may ease your mind if you are reluctant to contact an accident lawyer to discuss your personal injury claim. 

What is the Attorney-Client Privilege?

A client may need to discuss sensitive or embarrassing information with their lawyer. 

For example, injuries from a construction accident have resulted in the loss of bladder and bowel control. A car accident may have resulted in the inability to have intercourse. Clients may need to disclose a past drug addiction or other medical issues that they would not want anyone to know.

A personal injury attorney may need to disclose information to specific parties to protect a client’s best interest. 

For example, the client could receive compensation for an impairment. However, the attorney must disclose the impairment to the insurance company and provide proof of the impairment. Only then could the client recover compensation for the impairment. 

However, attorney-client privilege prevents attorneys from disclosing information or discussing what you tell them without your permission. The attorney must protect your privacy and the confidentiality of your information. 

For attorney-client privilege to apply, a conversation must meet the following requirements:

  • The communication was between the attorney and the client or potential client
  • The attorney was acting in their professional capacity
  • The goal of the discussion was for the person to obtain legal advice
  • The client expects the conversation to remain confidential

There are only a few exceptions to the attorney-client privilege. Most communications between personal injury lawyers and their clients are confidential. 

Attorneys must take steps to prevent confidential information from being disclosed. Therefore, you do not need to worry that your attorney will disclose information unless they discussed the matter with you. 

Are Free Consultations with an Attorney Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege?

Most initial consultations are protected by the attorney-client privilege. If the potential client meets the above requirements, then the conversation should be protected under attorney-client privilege. 

What Are Exceptions to Attorney-Client Privilege?

In general, communications with a lawyer are in-person, on the telephone, and by electronic communication. If the communication is private, then the information you share with your personal injury attorney should be privileged. 

However, posts on social media accounts, emails from a public computer, and other communication that another party could receive or read are not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Attorneys may share privileged information if the client waives the right to privilege. The attorney may also ignore the privilege if the client tells the attorney that they intend to commit a crime or are planning to commit a crime.

Why Should I Tell My Personal Injury Attorney Everything?

Concerns about privilege may be why a person does not tell an attorney everything. Another reason may be fear about how information could be used against them. If clients believe that information could hurt their injury claim, they might try to hide that information from their attorney.

However, withholding information from your personal injury attorney could do more damage to your case than good. 

For example, say that you try to hide that you were injured in a construction accident a few years ago. You believe that the insurance company will use the pre-existing condition to deny your car accident claim. 

The insurance company discovers the injury. The deception hurts your credibility, making it more difficult for your attorney to argue the facts of your case.

However, if you had told your attorney about the pre-existing condition, your personal injury attorney could have prepared a defense to the insurance company’s allegations. Not being upfront with your lawyer “ties your lawyer’s hands.” It prevents your lawyer from developing strategies to overcome any issues that could hurt your personal injury case.

What Information Should You Tell Your Personal Injury Attorney?

When you meet with your personal injury lawyer to discuss an accident or injury, there is some information that the attorney needs to know to evaluate your claim. Information to disclose to your personal injury attorney includes:

  • All injuries and symptoms you sustained because of the accident
  • Any activities that you cannot perform because of your injuries
  • Pre-existing health conditions, prior injuries, and previous accidents
  • Prior personal injury claims you have filed
  • Injuries sustained after the accident
  • Bankruptcy cases or the intent to file for bankruptcy relief
  • Any criminal history
  • If you have an open divorce case or intend to file for divorce
  • Whether you could be partially at fault for the cause of your injury

You may not believe that something is relevant to your personal injury claim. However, your lawyer’s job is to determine whether an event or situation could impact your injury claim. Full disclosure of all information allows your attorney your best interest.