Attorney-client privilege is a common legal term. While most people have heard of it, many clients have questions about how it works. For instance, when does this protection begin? Do you have to hire an attorney first? Does this protection apply to an injury claim?
At Goldberg and Finnegan, our Silver Spring car accident lawyers understand the importance of protecting client confidentiality. Learn more about attorney-client privilege below, including how it may apply to an injury claim.
What is Attorney-Client Privilege?
In simple terms, attorney-client privilege is a law that protects the conversations between an attorney and his or her client.
When this law applies, what you discuss with your attorney cannot be shared or used in court without your written consent. If a lawyer reveals the contents of a protected conversations, he or she could be disbarred.
How Do Injury Victims Benefit From Attorney-Client Privilege?
Details injury victims share about their accident are fully protected by attorney-client privilege. This protection makes it possible for them to be open and honest about events and other details related to their accident.
This law also benefits injury victims by providing:
- The ability to share all relevant details about their case without worrying it could be used against them
- Legal advice that is more accurate because no important information has been left out
- Full control over any information that is shared and who it may be shared with
Without attorney-client privilege, injured victims may not tell an attorney everything, and he or she could be caught by surprise. Trying to reduce the damage is a lot harder than knowing about an issue from the beginning and being able to plan for it.
In injury claims, one common example of this is if the plaintiff tries to hide a preexisting injury or illness. Unfortunately, trying to hide details, such as your medical history, typically backfires, and not in a good way. When attorneys know about this up front, they can better plan when and how that information is shared.
When seeking legal advice, we strongly recommend that you take full advantage of attorney-client privilege. It does no good for an injured victim to ask for legal help if he or she holds back critical details that may damage a claim.
When Does Attorney-Client Protection Begin?
Injury victims are often unsure when attorney-client privilege begins. Is it when you hire an attorney? What about when you meet with a lawyer for the first time in a free consultation?
In general, attorney-client protection begins when:
- You set up a meeting with an attorney and expect confidentiality
- The reason for your meeting with the attorney is to seek legal advice
- The attorney has agreed to meet with you in his or her professional capacity
- You have a previously established attorney-client relationship with that attorney
What About My Free Consultation?
Even a free initial consultation with an attorney is protected by attorney-privilege. Once there is an attorney-client relationship, other forms of private communication with your attorney are also protected, including:
- Private emails
- Phone calls
- Letters that are not copied to anyone else
In short, you can, and should, be completely frank with your attorney. Be sure to share any information or evidence that could impact the outcome of your claim.
Is There Any Information That Is Not Protected?
There are always exceptions, even under the law. In this case, there are two things that are not protected by attorney-client privilege:
- Details that could prevent a death
- The client tells the attorney about a crime he or she plans to commit
In either situation, the attorney may be legally compelled to disclose what was shared.
Can Attorney-Client Privilege Be Lost?
It is possible for the protection of attorney-client privilege to be lost. Remember that confidentiality is a two-way street. It does not work if the attorney protects the conversation, but the client does not. If an injury victim reveals details about the case, the attorney cannot be held liable for any damages that may result.
So how does this happen? It is easier than you might think – most commonly, accidental disclosure happens when the client:
- Discusses the case in a public setting where others can overhear what was said
- Posts details about the case in a public way, such as on social media
- Uses a work email, which should never be considered private, to discuss the case
- Copies one or more individuals on an email to their attorney
There are some situations where the client may voluntarily waive attorney-client privilege. However, this is rare and unlikely to happen in an injury claim.
Call Our Trusted Law Firm for Legal Help Today
If you have been injured because of another person’s negligence, our team of legal professionals is ready to help. We have been helping injured victims for decades, recovering more than $130 million on their behalf.
At Goldberg Finnegan, we are prepared to answer any legal questions you may have about the legal process and your potential claim. You can meet with one of our qualified attorneys at no cost or obligation to you. If we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front. We only get paid if you do.