What is Attorney-Client Privilege?

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The aftermath of an accident can be a confusing time for accident victims; much time may be spent trying to determine your legal options and whether you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries. While seeking answers to these and other questions, keep in mind that an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you greatly by answering many of your questions promptly. You may be hesitant about speaking to an attorney and sharing personal details about the accident or yourself, but a free consultation after your accident may be your best ticket to compensation.

Furthermore, any information you share with the skilled injury lawyers at Zinda Law Group remains confidential. Schedule your own free consultation to determine your legal options today by calling (800) 863-5312. If we are not able to win your case, you will not owe us anything.

what is attorney-client privilege?

Arguably, one of the most important legal principles within the legal field is the principle of attorney-client privilege. While this privilege is often thought of in terms of encouraging a criminal defendant to be fully open with his or her criminal defense attorney in order to allow the attorney to mount the best possible defense, the attorney-client privilege applies also to civil cases.

Attorney-client privilege is a legal privilege that protects confidential information you have shared with your attorney and allows you to keep any such information secret. Attorney-client privilege is the product of a general societal understanding of the need for clients to be able to be comfortable sharing information with their attorneys—including any potentially embarrassing or relevant details that may be detrimental to their case—without fear of those details potentially being shared. With this privilege, your personal injury lawyer is able to have an accurate understanding of the client’s situation and case in order to provide more accurate and applicable legal advice.

The privilege prevents an attorney from revealing information or communications shared with them by their client. Typically, attorney-client privilege will be asserted when there is a legal demand for protected communications, such as through a discovery request by the other party in a lawsuit or through a demand that your lawyer testify under oath. However, if there is an attorney-client relationship and the privilege applies to the information in question, the attorney cannot be required to disclose or share the information, even by a court.

what does attorney-client privilege cover?

While attorney-client privilege protects most communication between a lawyer and client, there are certain requirements for the privilege to apply. Specifically, four criteria must generally be met:

  • The communication occurred between the attorney and his or her client.
  • The attorney is acting in his or her professional capacity.
  • The communication was for the purpose of seeking legal advice.
  • The client intended that the communication remain confidential.

If these four criteria are met, the communication will generally be protected by attorney-client privilege. Furthermore, privileged communications between you and your attorney can take many forms, including any oral or written conversations about the case that satisfy the above criteria, such as:

  • Voice messages
  • Text messages
  • Phone calls
  • Zoom or other similar audio-video conferencing calls
  • Emails

Finally, privileged information that may be protected by attorney-client privilege may even include some non-verbal or non-written communications, such as the client or attorney shaking his or her head or nodding his or her head in agreement.

Attorney-Client Relationship

For attorney-client privilege to apply, the primary requirement is for there to be an attorney-client relationship; without this relationship, the privilege will not apply. For the relationship to exist, the client must have officially hired the attorney, with both parties agreeing to a contract for representation. If the client has not yet officially hired the attorney, attorney-client privilege will generally not apply, although an exception may apply in limited circumstances.

benefits of attorney-client privilege

For injury victims, attorney-client privilege offers numerous benefits, such as the ability to discuss any aspects of the accident with your attorney with the knowledge that any communications will be kept confidential. This knowledge allows you to be open and honest with your injury attorney, even if you are unsure whether you may have been at least partially responsible for the accident, because the other party will not be able to obtain these protected communications.

Furthermore, you can feel comfortable sharing other relevant information with your attorney, such as information about a preexisting injury. In many accident cases, an insurance company may attempt to use your preexisting injury against you to weaken your case. However, by sharing this information with your attorney, your lawyer is able to be prepared if this issue arises, while you do not have to worry about your insurance company forcing your attorney to reveal any details or information you shared.

when does attorney-client privilege not apply?

While attorney-client privilege protects most communication between the client and his or her attorney, it does not automatically make all communication confidential between the client and attorney. First, as the client, you have the right to waive that privilege and allow your attorney to share the information if you choose. As attorney-client privilege is the client’s privilege, you will generally be the only person who can waive this privilege.

However, there are some limited exceptions that may actually void the privilege. While specific laws about what information is protected by attorney-client privilege and the potential exceptions to this privilege typically vary from state to state, there are some common exceptions that may be recognized in many states.

Intent to Commit Crimes

For example, if you tell your attorney about any crimes you intend to commit, your attorney may choose to violate the attorney-client privilege. If disclosure of the confidential communications is “reasonably necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm,” your lawyer may choose to reveal the confidential information as necessary to prevent the harm from occurring, such as by warning the intended victim. Such harm is “reasonably certain” to occur if the harm will be suffered imminently or if the attorney believes that there is a present and substantial threat that a person will suffer this harm at a future date if the attorney does not take the necessary action to eliminate the threat.

Intent to Commit Fraud

In addition to obligations or options to disclose communications if you express an intent to commit a violent crime, your attorney may also have a legal obligation to disclose information if you have admitted to an intention to commit fraud or admitted to actively committing fraud related to the current claim involved in the case in which the attorney is representing you. Importantly, sharing information with your personal injury attorney about any preexisting conditions or injuries is generally not considered to be fraudulent intent on its own; rather this information is important to disclose to your attorney as soon as possible in order to best help them build a compelling case and prepare a defense to any claims the other party or insurance company may attempt to make against you.

Communications Fail to Satisfy Attorney-Client Privilege Criteria

Other potential exceptions to attorney-client privilege include situations where the communications in question did not satisfy the necessary criteria to create privileged communications, such as:

  • Discussions on social media, because such communications do not meet the requirement of occurring exclusively between you and your attorney
  • Emails sent to your attorney from your work email account
  • Discussions that occur in a public place, such as talking over lunch
  • Discussions with your attorney with someone else in the room

While it is generally wise to take advantage of the broad protections and confidentiality between you and your attorney created by attorney-client privilege, you should also be aware of the potential exceptions to this privilege. If you are concerned about potentially sharing certain information with your attorney, you should first review attorney-client privilege with your attorney and discuss your concerns. Your injury lawyer can help you understand the limitations of attorney-client privilege in your state, what information will be protected under the privilege, and when he or she may have any legal obligations to share certain information you share.

Contact an injury lawyer near you today

While you may be confused after an accident and unsure of which steps you should take to pursue any compensation you may be entitled to, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group can help you better understand your legal options. Further, by hiring one of our skilled lawyers, you can feel more comfortable sharing the details of your case with your attorney as a result of the benefits of attorney-client privilege.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call Zinda Law Group as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys who will be pleased to discuss who may be liable for your injuries and whether you may be entitled to any compensation. Our skilled team will use their years of experience helping accident victims to help you pursue maximum compensation after your accident.

Call (800) 863-5312 today for a free consultation with an injury attorney from Zinda Law Group. You will not pay anything unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.

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