Breaking Down Attorney-Client Privilege: What it Means and How it Can Affect Your Clearwater Personal Injury Case
June 26, 2023 | Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers | Product Liability
When a client speaks with their attorney, whether in person, by phone, or by email, Florida law requires that they be able to do so in a manner that is confidential in order to facilitate open and honest communication.
If a client is concerned that their communications with their lawyer might be disclosed to others, they may be more guarded, withhold information, and omit facts that inhibit the ability of their attorney to give full, complete, and comprehensive legal advice.
Therefore, attorney-client privilege under Florida law is sacrosanct. It is important that a client feels open to discussing their case with their attorney without any fear that their communications will be shared with others. That way, the attorney can shape their advice with all the pertinent details and provide legal counsel tailored to their client’s case. That is especially true in a personal injury matter.
Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege
Under Florida law, attorney-client privilege guards the confidentiality of all communications – including written, oral, and electronic– between a client and their attorney. That means a client can be free to discuss anything with their lawyer about their personal injury case, even facts that may hurt their case, without any fear that the attorney will share that information with others outside their office.
The attorney-client privilege is a safeguard to ensure free and open communications. No judge, opposing counsel, court personnel, law enforcement, or insurance adjuster, can require you or your attorney to ever divulge the content of your conversations with your lawyer and privileged information.
Confidentiality and Case Strategy
As a legal concept, attorney-client privilege is crucial to building an effective case plan and legal strategy. Such privilege has a special application in Florida personal injury cases.
For example, your attorney may want to speak with you about the details of your car accident and how it took place. Your attorney may also need to get a full set of your medical history to make an accurate assessment of your damages, which means discussing both the injuries you suffered as a consequence of the accident along with any pre-existing medical issues – with the goal of the best possible outcome in your personal injury case.
With attorney-client privilege, you should feel free to speak with your attorney on a truthful and honest basis about the above issues. If you withhold information from your lawyer, it only makes their job that much more difficult when facts contrary to your discussions later arise. Even if you are concerned that the things you tell your lawyer might hurt your personal injury case, you need to tell your lawyer now and up front. That way, your lawyer can anticipate those issues and craft an effective strategy in response.
Engaging Expert Witnesses
In addition to attorney-client privilege, your lawyer may also speak with expert witnesses on your behalf to help build your personal injury case. These experts are professionals whose expertise lends credibility and bolsters your claim, including physicians and other health care providers; engineers; accident reconstruction experts; nurse care planners; and economists or rehabilitation consultants.
When your lawyer speaks with experts in confidence, the privilege of your communications with your attorney extends to the experts they consult to prepare your personal injury case, thus protecting your legal interests at every step of building the best possible case for you.
Confidential Medical Discussions
Just as your conversations with your doctor and health care providers are subject to confidence and privilege, your communications with your attorney about your medical history are also generally protected under Florida legal privilege.
Personal injury matters will involve very sensitive conversations with your lawyer about your current medical condition, treatment needs, prognosis, past medical history, and other health matters that you would not want broadcast to others outside the confidence of your medical and legal advisors. You may need to share sensitive medical information with your attorney so that they can help make a plan for your recovery. These matters are sensitive, and some of them may be relevant to your case, and others not.
Having a free, open, and most importantly, privileged conversation with your attorney about your medical care is necessary to fully evaluate your claim and make a strategy to ensure you receive full, fair compensation.
As the case proceeds, there will be time when an opportunity is presented to resolve the case with a settlement between you and the defendant’s insurance carrier. Those settlement negotiations are fraught with a number of important decisions that you and your attorney must weigh, including, potential outcomes at trial, negotiation strategy, and the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
In order to adequately weigh various settlement offers, make counter-offers, and discuss how to proceed, your conversations with your attorney to get the best possible advice are privileged. Your attorney cannot disclose settlement talks they have with you with any other person – unless you agree otherwise.
The attorney is not allowed to share your settlement position with the judge, opposing counsel, insurance adjusters, or a private mediator brought in to help resolve the case, until you give your attorney permission. That way, you can feel comfortable having a free-flowing conversation about whether to resolve your case, and if so, for how much. Read more about how much your case could be worth here.
A Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Every Step of the Way
A vital part of every personal injury case in Clearwater, Florida, and throughout the state, is the right of a client to speak with their attorney in confidence. The attorney-client privilege under Florida law is a fundamental bedrock of effective legal representation. It is essential for your attorney to give you advice about the true value of your claim; evaluate both the strong points, and potential drawbacks, of your case and how it will proceed in court; and, it allows your attorney and you to discuss settlement and trial strategy.
Attorney-client privilege also extends to the other members of your attorney’s office, including their staff, paralegals, assistant, and all personnel who assist you in the resolution of your personal injury case. It further covers communications with experts whom you might retain to prepare your case for trial, such as doctors, accident reconstruction experts, economists, and life care planners, under the work product doctrine.
When you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer in Clearwater, Florida, you should feel comfortable that all of your communications are completely privileged. With open and honest lines of communication, your lawyer can effectively represent you and get you the compensation you deserve. Your lawyer is your advocate, and the privilege strengthens their abilities to fully and adequately represent you throughout your case.
Contact the Clearwater Personal Injury Law Firm of Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today
For more information, please contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Clearwater today. We have five convenient locations in Florida, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and Lakeland.
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
600 Bypass Dr Suite 224-D, Clearwater, FL 33764
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg Office
111 2nd Ave NE Suite 350, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
5006 Trouble Creek Rd Unit #200, Port Richey, FL 34652
Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Lakeland Office
1543 Lakeland Hills Blvd Suite 18, Lakeland, FL 33805