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How Honest Should I Be with My Personal Injury Attorney?

May 22, 2023

The days and weeks after a car crash, workplace accident, or other personal injury can be an incredibly scary and stressful time. You may be dealing with medical bills, lost wages, and other damages you can’t afford to pay. You need help.

But sometimes, one of the hardest things to do is just be honest with your personal injury attorney. It’s relatively common for injury victims to hesitate to share certain details with their attorney, especially if they feel those details might be embarrassing or potentially harmful to their case.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How honest should I be with my attorney?” the simple answer is: “completely honest.” Whether it’s good or bad for your case, we want to know it—it helps us provide you with the best possible representation and the best chance at a successful legal outcome.

In this blog post, we’ll explain why transparency is always the best policy when working with a personal injury law firm.

Attorney-Client Privilege Protects Private Communication with Your Lawyer

Personal injury cases are a form of civil litigation. In other words, no one is on trial for a crime. However, just like a criminal defense lawyer, personal injury attorneys have a duty of confidentiality to their clients. Client-attorney privilege generally applies if:

  • You’re communicating with a personal injury lawyer either to seek legal advice or discuss your case. This applies even if you’re at a free consultation and you ultimately decide not to hire the attorney.
  • The lawyer is acting in a professional capacity (as opposed to acting informally as a friend).
  • You intend the conversation to be private.

These protections last from your very first meeting with your lawyer and never expire. Even after your case is concluded—or even after you die—your attorney still has a duty to protect your confidentiality.

But what does attorney-client privilege really mean? What is being protected?

Basically, it means that anything you share with your lawyer in private cannot be shared with anyone outside their legal team without your permission. This includes written communication as well as conversations that you have. Furthermore, the lawyer cannot be forced to testify about private communications with a client.

A client communicating with an attorney

Exceptions to Client-Attorney Privilege

Although privilege includes most private communications between you and your attorney, there are limited circumstances where this rule does not apply—or, even if it does, your discussions may not remain confidential. The main ones include:

  • There was no reasonable expectation of privacy. This is easiest to explain with an example. If you’re having a conversation at the attorney’s office, with no other people present, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Even if someone secretly recorded that conversation, that evidence would be inadmissible in court. However, if you’re on a phone call with your lawyer in a public place, like a restaurant, and someone overhears it, that could be used against you by those who heard it.
  • You shared private information with others. Communication you have with your lawyer is protected by confidentiality. Discussions with friends, co-workers, or other third parties are not. (Kentucky and Indiana laws provide certain confidentiality protections for conversations between spouses, but they are less comprehensive than attorney-client protections.) When in doubt, it’s best to avoid discussing your case with anyone besides your legal team.
  • The communication is for the purpose of committing a crime. If you seek out an attorney for help committing or furthering a crime, such as conspiracy to commit fraud, that communication is not protected by privilege.
An attorney and a client discussing a case

Why You Should Always Tell Your Attorney Everything

So now you know that you can tell your lawyer all the details without worrying about confidentiality. But that might not mean you want to tell your lawyer everything. Clients are often reluctant to reveal certain things even if they completely trust their lawyer. For example:

  • You were talking on your cell phone at the time of the car crash, and you’re worried that it might mean you get part of the blame for the accident.
  • You previously received treatment for back pain and are worried the opposing lawyer will use that to argue that your car accident injuries were pre-existing.
  • You have a criminal record or previous traffic citations.
  • You were doing something personally embarrassing, or something you shouldn’t have been doing, at the time of the incident.

You might think that hiding these details will spare you from unnecessary embarrassment or prevent inconvenient facts from damaging your case. However, this is almost never true. The best course of action is always to be completely honest and transparent with the lawyer representing you.

Here are a few major reasons why:

It Helps Your Lawyer Build You the Best Possible Case

The truth is that most personal injury cases—and especially the ones that require filing a lawsuit or going to court—are complicated matters. Some facts are going to be favorable to your case. Other facts are going to be more favorable to the insurance company.

Inconvenient facts don’t necessarily mean that you don’t deserve compensation! But you can bet that if there are any inconvenient facts, the opposing counsel will find them sooner or later and try to use them against you.

If you’re upfront and honest with your lawyer about facts that might hurt your case, then your lawyer can properly prepare for the tactics that the insurance company or their defense attorney may use against you. They can explain to the insurance company or jury why you still deserve substantial compensation.

For example, the medical evidence might clearly show that your car accident caused new back injury symptoms, even if you previously had back problems. But if you don’t tell us about your complicated medical history, then we won’t be able to defend you as effectively. The absolute last thing we want is to be caught off guard by inconvenient facts and only find out about them from the insurance company or the opposing attorney, rather than from our client.

Remember, your lawyer’s job is to provide you with the best possible legal representation. To do that, they need all the facts—good and bad. Only then can they truly act in your best interest and put together the best possible legal strategy for your situation.

Nothing Is More Important Than Your Credibility

Honesty and integrity matter, always. They matter in negotiations with the insurance company, and they definitely matter in court. If you are caught lying about something, it can absolutely wreck your case. This is true even if the lie, like hiding a previous conviction, is not directly relevant to the case.

Personal injury cases are decided based on the “preponderance of the evidence,” rather than the much stricter “reasonable doubt” standard in criminal law. Essentially, what this means is that to win your case, you only need to prove that the other party is more likely than 50% at fault.

If you lose your credibility, you will have a significantly harder time convincing a jury to give you the benefit of any doubt. Furthermore, even if the facts are on your side, you may have a harder time getting truly fair compensation for your damages. But if a jury sees you as honest, likable, and trustworthy, you’re more likely to be treated fairly.

Trust the Karl Truman Law Office with Your Personal Injury Case

At the Karl Truman Law Office, the army values of integrity, honesty, justice, hard work, and staying until the job is done are the foundation of everything we do.

We know that our clients aren’t always perfect people. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve fair compensation when they are harmed by someone else’s negligence. We won’t shy away from complicated, challenging legal cases as long as the cause is just, the law is on your side, and you’re honest with us.

If you’re looking for experienced, compassionate, and completely confidential legal advice for your personal injury case, give us a call today for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout Kentucky and Indiana from our offices in Louisville and Jeffersonville. Dial 502-222-2222 or fill out the contact form on our website to get started.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.