Many times, personal injury cases require people to disclose some sensitive and even embarrassing personal information. As a result, accident victims may be hesitant to contact an injury lawyer. Understanding attorney-client privilege is essential, as it may help accident victims feel more at ease.
So, what is attorney-client privilege? Attorney-client privilege is an ethics rule that protects your communications with your personal injury attorney. Essentially, this rule specifies that when you meet with your attorney, anything you share with them is considered confidential information. Your attorney cannot disclose this information to anyone, including the other side during the discovery process or even a subpoena.
Here’s a breakdown of attorney-client privilege including when it starts, when attorney-client privilege applies, and what may be excluded from the attorney-client relationship.
Does Attorney-Client Privilege Cover Free Consultations?
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to help accident victims understand whether they have a personal injury claim. Because there is no contract between the accident victim and the attorney at this meeting, many victims question how much information they should disclose when they are seeking legal advice.
What you share in a free consultation is protected by attorney-client privilege, and, according to the rules of professional conduct, the attorney cannot disclose that information to another party. If you have a free consultation scheduled with a lawyer and are still a bit hesitant, ask the lawyer directly if what you say is covered by attorney-client privilege and if it will affect your case. Once the attorney confirms attorney-client privilege, feel free to share any information that would be helpful in your case.
What Information is Covered by Attorney-Client Privilege?
In Pennsylvania, the attorney-client privilege is covered by Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 and Rule of Evidence 501. There are several requirements that must be met for your communication to be considered privileged, including:
- The conversation or communication took place between you and your attorney
- The purpose of your communication was to seek legal advice about a legal matter
- Your lawyer acted in their professional capacity as an attorney during the conversation or communication
- You expected and assumed the conversation or communication would remain confidential
As long as the above requirements are met, attorney-client privilege applies to conversations with your attorney. Information you share with your attorney or legal team during meetings is not the only type of information that is covered by the attorney-client privilege. All forms of communication between you as the client and your attorney are considered privileged information including:
- Text messages: In the age of quick communication, many lawyers and clients will use text messaging as a way of communication. If you text your attorney, they are bound to keep that information private and confidential.
- Phone calls: Private phone calls where no one else is listening are considered protected.
- Letters: Letters that are addressed specifically to your attorney and no one else are considered confidential. If you send a copy of the letter to anyone aside from your attorney, you can put that information at risk of being discovered by other parties.
- Emails: Emails between you and your lawyer, where no one is copied or blind-copied, are protected under attorney-client privilege.
As with most areas of law, there are exceptions to the rule. Not everything you say can be considered privileged. In some cases, attorneys may be legally bound to share information with another party, but this information is extremely limited and rare.
What is Excluded from Attorney-Client Privilege?
Your personal injury attorney is legally required to keep the information you share with them private and confidential, with a few exceptions. Lawyers are required to alert authorities if their client reveals an intent to commit fraud or another crime. Attorneys can also break the attorney-client privilege if they believe disclosure to the proper authorities can prevent a death or severe bodily harm.
Other times where confidentiality is not guaranteed is when you share information with someone else besides your attorney. Let’s say you were discussing your case in a public setting and someone else overheard your conversation – in this case there is no expectation of confidentiality. And that social media post about your accident? Anything you share on social media is considered public information and is not privileged.
How Will Attorney-Client Privilege Affect My Case?
After an accident that results in an injury, you may need to share information with your attorney that is sensitive and uncomfortable, particularly related to embarrassing physical symptoms or your financial situation. In order for your attorney to best represent you, it’s best to share as much information as possible to help build your personal injury case.
Anything you share will be considered privileged. The biggest benefit to you in an injury claim is being able to speak freely with your attorney. If you feel you were partially at fault for the accident, sharing this information can help your attorney plan how to limit your liability in the case. Further, if you hide information like pre-existing conditions, the legal team for the other side may discover this information and use it against you.
Your attorney may ask you for:
- Medical records – both current and previous
- Information related to addiction or substance abuse
- Income and debts
- Details about the accident, including if you were partially at-fault
When you share every detail with your lawyer, they can do their best to help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries, which will help with medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Remember, your attorney is fighting for you and can do their best when they have all relevant information.
Work with an Experienced Personal Injury Law Firm
At Georgelis Injury Law Firm in Lancaster, Pa., we take our profession very seriously and abide by the attorney-client privilege from our first conversation. Even if you choose to work with another firm, trust that what you share with us during your free consultation is considered privileged. If you’ve been injured and have questions about your case, contact us for a free consultation today.
We have a team of experienced and professional attorneys and paralegals who only work on personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. Whether you’ve been hurt in a car accident, slip and fall, motorcycle accident, work accident, or any accident due to the negligence of someone else, we can help you navigate the legal system for your personal injury or workers’ comp claim.
Our approach to handling personal injury cases and workers’ compensation claims is different from other firms. We bring a unique perspective to each case based on compassion and understanding that develops from putting ourselves in our clients’ shoes. We don’t just say that we take care of our clients like family; we actually do it.
Like family, we are available 24/7 and can come to you for an initial meeting – your home, office, even the hospital. Call 1-800-HURT-NOW or connect with us online. We never charge a fee unless we win your case.