Attorney-Client Confidentiality prohibits an attorney from revealing information that relates to the representation of his or her client unless the client gives consent to disclose said information. Many larger law firms will have multiple lawyers handle one client’s case. In this situation, a client should give their primary attorney consent to disclose important information to the other attorney in their firm who is also handling their case. Beyond the transparent principle of confidentiality in and of itself, it’s important that clients know that their words are safe with their attorney. There’s a lot that your personal injury attorney must know about your life in order to best handle your case. Certain aspects of your life prior to your accident may affect your case. Furthermore, certain aspects of your life prior to your accident may be used against you by the defendant’s attorney. Here are some aspects about your life – which you may innately want to keep private – that your lawyer must know about.
It’s highly important that you tell your personal injury attorney about any prior physical or mental illnesses you have been diagnosed with in the past. Your opposing attorney may try to connect your prior injuries with the one you’ve incurred during your accident, which can either devalue or fully ruin your claim. Defense attorneys always have a medical background check done on plaintiffs for this very reason. The more your personal injury attorney knows about your prior injuries, the more equipped they’ll be to shut down this type of defense. Even if you don’t believe your prior injuries can have anything to do with the injury you’ve sustained in your accident, you must tell your personal injury attorney about it.
Mental illness can be a touchy subject, but it’s important that you tell your personal injury attorney about any mental illnesses you’ve been diagnosed with in the past, including substance abuse problems. Your opposing attorney may use this information to place question on your credibility, and your personal injury attorney must be ready for this, especially if you have an emotional distress claim. Your opposing attorney may claim your emotional distress was due to your prior mental illness and not the accident which caused your injury.
Much like your opposing attorney will run a medical background check on you, they’ll also run a criminal background check. If you’ve committed any crimes whatsoever, it’s important to tell your personal injury attorney. Your opposing attorney may use any crimes you’ve committed, particularly anything dealing with fraud or stealing, to place question on your credibility. Don’t let your personal injury attorney be blindsided by this defense. Tell them about any criminal history you may have.
Declaring bankruptcy may feel embarrassing for some. But you cannot withhold that from your personal injury attorney. This is extremely important. If you file for bankruptcy during your personal injury case, your non-economic damages may become an asset of your estate. This holds true in New York and some other states.
In other words, any money you receive for “pain and suffering” may not go to you. It may go to your creditors. You must tell your personal injury attorney if you are filing for bankruptcy. Your bankruptcy attorney and your personal injury attorney must work together in order to decide which set of exemptions is best for you.
No one wants to talk about divorce. But if you’re in the middle of a divorce during your personal injury case or planning a divorce, it’s important that you tell your attorney. Your attorney may want to depose your spouse from the trial. They may have resentments toward you and if they are called for testimony, these resentments could hurt your case. Also, if the decision to divorce was made based on your injury (ie. your inability to work or changes in your behavior post-accident), your personal injury attorney may be able to calculate this into your claim for emotional distress.
If you work “off the books”, tell your personal injury attorney. It’s important they know everything about your employment so they can properly approach recovery of any lost wages.
Many individuals don’t even know that they have Medicaid or Medicare, but it’s important that you look into this so you can tell your personal injury attorney. Your personal injury attorney must report to your insurer and work around their timeframe in order to get any information on existing liens.
It’s important you understand that unless you give consent for your attorney to disclose this information, it is safe with them. The best thing you can do is be upfront with your attorney, especially regarding the above categories.