Attorney-Client Privilege: What Is It and How Will it Affect My Personal Injury Case in Pennsylvania?

When you are involved in a legal proceeding, you may be concerned about the security of your private information. In personal injury claims, the plaintiff may need to provide medical and financial documents.

Most people have heard of attorney-client privilege, but the average person might be unsure about what it entails. Below, we will discuss this key legal concept and examine the benefits that it provides.

What Is Attorney-Client Privilege?

Attorney-client privilege has been recognized for centuries in American jurisprudence. Many court decisions and norms have shaped this privilege over time.

This foundational principle is meant to ensure that clients won’t have to be afraid that their private information will be disclosed in a court case. This allows the client to speak openly and freely to their lawyer.

Clients are shielded by attorney-client privilege. As a result, clients may be more likely to provide honest information to their legal representatives. In essence, they can trust that their statements will not be shared or used against them by their attorney or others.

Because of the strength of this privilege, lawyers cannot be compelled to provide information that is given in confidence. Also, attorneys are prohibited from providing confidential information voluntarily.

For this privilege to apply, certain criteria must be met. These criteria include:

  • The representative must be a licensed attorney
  • Privileged communication can only involve the attorney and client
  • Privileged communication must take place in private
  • The person must have hired the attorney
  • The conversation must revolve around legal advice

However, keep in mind that the planning of any criminal act is not privileged.

No matter what the nature of your legal case might be, these elements of attorney-client privilege apply. This privilege guarantees that it is safe to give your lawyer the information they need to fight for you effectively.

How Will Attorney-Client Privilege Affect My Personal Injury Case?

When you are seeking damages for an accident or injury, you may need to tell your lawyer sensitive information. For example, some victims need to share potentially embarrassing physical symptoms with their attorney.

Your representative will likely need access to certain kinds of sensitive medical or financial records. This can include:

  • Records of past medical treatments
  • Prior addiction or substance abuse history
  • Income information
  • Outstanding debts
  • And more

With attorney-client privilege, you can share this information with the knowledge that it is confidential. This privilege belongs to the client when they hire a lawyer.

As long as information meets the criteria listed above, you get to decide which information your lawyer reveals. 

It is important to note that some information may keep your attorney from representing you effectively. Even if certain information is private, it can influence your personal injury case.

For instance, imagine an attorney learns that their client is pretending their injury is more severe than it is. The client may be hoping to secure a larger settlement by lying about their injury. 

In this case, the attorney would be prohibited from revealing that information. However, the lawyer would also be unable to affirm the lie about the severity of the injury. To do so would be an ethical breach.

If the client’s personal injury case went to trial, the attorney might refrain from putting the claimant on the stand. This is especially true if the lawyer knew that the client planned to lie.

What Information Does Not Qualify for Attorney-Client Privilege?

Not every piece of information is protected by this privilege. For instance, the fact that an attorney-client relationship exists is not privileged information.

The same is true for the length of the attorney-client relationship. In general, the nature of legal services performed are discoverable. 

Dates of attorney-client conversations and communication methods are not privileged. For this reason, attorney-client privilege is a critical factor in personal injury claims. But it does not apply to all information related to personal injury cases.