What to Know About the Attorney-Client Relationship
The relationship between an attorney and a client is considered to be a special one in the eyes of the law. This is because almost anything that you say to your legal representative is considered to be confidential. In a personal injury case, the ability to speak freely to your attorney is important because it allows you to provide this person with the information that he or she needs to truly represent your interests.
The Right to Confidentiality Is Not Absolute
There are a few nuances to attorney-client privilege rules that you need to be aware of before hiring a California personal injury attorney. For example, if you tell your legal representative that you plan on committing a crime, your lawyer will likely be obligated to pass that information on to authorities. Furthermore, if you say something to your legal representative in the presence of another person, that individual may not be prohibited from making whatever you revealed available to the public.
When Are You Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege?
There are three criteria that must be met if you want a conversation to be kept confidential. First, you must be speaking directly to your attorney either in person, by phone or by other means. Next, you must be talking to your attorney solely for the purposes of obtaining legal counsel. For instance, a conversation regarding what to say to your insurance company would likely qualify as seeking legal guidance in your California personal injury case.
Finally, you must be able to prove that you believed that the contents of a conversation were to be kept confidential. In most cases, simply discussing the case in private is enough for this to be implied. However, it may be in your best interest to specify that you don’t want anything that you say to be leaked to the press or any other party unless your lawyer is required by law to do so.
You Have the Ability to Waive This Right
One of the important nuances of the relationship between a client and a lawyer is the client’s ability to waive the right to keep information confidential. In other words, you have the right to allow your legal advocate to speak freely about your case.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be beneficial for an attorney to leak information to the press in an effort to create, change or otherwise control the narrative in your matter. It may also be necessary to read others into the case because they may become involved in the matter at some point.
For example, let’s suppose that you were driving to work in your parent’s car when it was struck by another vehicle. Let’s also suppose that this took place just days after your 18th birthday, which means that your parents were no longer considered your legal guardians. However, since it was their vehicle, they would likely be asked to testify at some point during the legal process.
Therefore, it is probably a good idea for your lawyer to talk to your parents about the matter. Of course, this will not happen unless you specifically allow it to, and your counselor cannot waive this right without risking his or her professional standing.
What Can You Do to Help Your Lawyer Succeed?
There are many steps that you can take to make it easier for your lawyer to adequately represent your interests. For example, you should be completely honest about what happened before, during and after an accident took place. This is true even if it may imply that you were at least partially liable for your injuries.
Let’s say that you were hurt in a car accident involving a distracted driver. In such a scenario, you would likely be entitled to a financial award to cover any costs that you incurred related to the other motorist’s irresponsible behavior. However, let’s also say that you were drunk, driving too fast for road conditions or ran a stop sign prior to the crash.
If your lawyer knows about this ahead of time, he or she can work around that when creating a legal strategy in your case. However, if this only comes up during settlement talks or at trial, it may cast doubt about other parts of your story, which can hurt your credibility. Ultimately, a loss of credibility may result in a less favorable outcome in your case.
You should also make sure that you show up on time to hearings, depositions or anything else related to your case. If you can’t make it to a proceeding for any reason, be sure to contact your lawyer as quickly as possible. This will allow that person to reschedule the event or to make other arrangements that may enable it to go on as planned.
What Can You Expect From Your Lawyer?
You should know that your lawyer has a fiduciary responsibility throughout the legal process. This means that your legal advocate has an ethical duty to make decisions that are in your best interest. Furthermore, this person has a duty to ensure that your wishes are respected throughout the legal process. For example, if you want to settle your case, a lawyer must do whatever it takes to obtain that outcome even if he or she disagrees with that decision.
Your lawyer must also ensure that he or she does not experience any significant conflicts of interest while serving as your representative. A conflict of interest might occur if your legal advocate represented the defendant in your case in a previous matter. If your lawyer has a personal relationship with the defendant or the defendant’s counsel, that may also be considered to be unacceptable.
In such a scenario, you would likely be within your rights to ask your representative to recuse him or herself from the case. Assuming your lawyer was an ethical actor, that individual would likely refuse to take your case at all and would instead refer you to another lawyer.
What Happens After Your Case Is Resolved?
It’s important to note that the relationship between yourself and your lawyer doesn’t change after your case ends. In fact, it doesn’t even change if you were to pass away. Instead, the lawyer who represented you in a personal injury case is required to abide by the same rules that were present when your case was ongoing.
This may be especially critical in the event that other cases arise from the central claim made against the defendant in your case. For instance, let’s say that you were involved in a car accident that occurred because the other vehicle had defective brakes.
In such a scenario, it’s possible that the driver who was deemed liable for your crash may take action against the brake manufacturer. It’s also possible that other parties may be subject to legal action because of their negligence.
Retaining a privileged relationship with your lawyer means that your past statements are less likely to be used against you. Furthermore, it provides you with the ability to speak freely with counsel in the event that you become involved in any future claims.
It’s also critical that you don’t say anything about your case that could make you vulnerable to future legal action. Even if the matter can’t be relitigated in court, you may not want the matter to be continually tried in the court of public opinion. In some cases, what people think may be more damaging that what is decided by a judge or jury.
If you have been hurt through no fault of your own, it’s generally a good idea to seek the counsel of a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney may be able to review your case and create a strategy to help you obtain a financial award in a timely manner. As a general rule, anything that you saw to your lawyer is confidential, which means that speaking openly about your case is unlikely to harm your chances of getting the outcome that you want.