Attorneys are ethically obligated to protect their clients’ confidential information. This fundamental aspect of the attorney-client relationship ensures that clients will freely share important facts about themselves and their cases with their lawyers. Despite this duty, personal injury clients are sometimes reluctant to share all of the facts with their legal counsel. This can jeopardize their cases and make it much more difficult for their attorneys to effectively represent them.
The personal injury team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP is committed to advocating for the rights of our clients. Here, we discuss why frank and open communication is essential to making the strongest legal case.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
It’s understandably not always easy to be totally honest with your attorney. You may be asked to share information that is embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about. For instance, after an automobile accident, your lawyer may want to know about your driving history. If you’ve had a DWI conviction, this can be tough to talk about.
What’s more, your lawyer will almost certainly ask you questions about the events leading up to the accident. If you were speeding or were intoxicated, you may be reluctant to share that information with your lawyer.
The problem is, there’s a good chance the defendant’s lawyer or insurance company will find out about these and other facts. And if that happens, they will do what they can to use it against you. What’s more, your lawyer will not have had the opportunity to prepare for this because you failed to disclose it.
Insurance companies work hard to deny payouts, even on legitimate claims. They routinely hire private investigators and others whose job is to dig into your past and find whatever they can to use against you. Perhaps it’s a piece of information that weakens your credibility. Or it could be a detail that undermines your legal claim against the defendant. Either way, you can’t assume that just because you don’t tell your attorney about something that the other party won’t find out.
Your lawyer will likely press you on the facts concerning the accident or some other aspect of your case. Being forthright with every detail, even the ones that seem unimportant, is critical. You can never tell whether a seemingly inconsequential piece of information will become relevant later in your case. In fact, details disclosed early on can acquire significance as additional facts are uncovered through discovery and other means.
What Should You Tell Your Attorney?
Every personal injury case is different, so the questions your lawyer asks can vary from one matter to another. However, in most lawsuits, you should prepare to discuss the following with your attorney (whether you are directly asked or not):
Anything that could detract from your credibility. This can include criminal convictions and charges, but is not necessarily limited to just those items. Ask yourself whether you’ve done anything, or anyone knows about anything, that could make you appear less trustworthy to a jury.
Any and all injuries you’ve sustained, no matter how long ago. The insurance company will want to know about pre-existing injuries and will try to deny any payouts to the extent your injuries preceded the accident. However, the defendant could be liable for aggravating a pre-existing injury. Regardless, don’t neglect to share these medical details with your lawyer.
Any and all previous litigation you were involved in. This includes lawsuits that are outside the area of personal injury. You should notify your lawyer whether you were the plaintiff or defendant in one of these cases. The defendant’s lawyer may use your litigation history against you by portraying you as a litigious person trying to score easy money. That’s not a reputation you want with a jury, so tell your attorney about all past litigation.
Call Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today
Remember, your lawyer wants to make the best possible case for you. Make that job easier by communicating openly and trusting your attorney’s professional judgment. If you were recently injured and want to discuss your legal options, call Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today.