If you’re considering hiring a personal injury lawyer in Florida, understanding the basics of attorney-client privilege is important. Your lawyer, or even one with whom you are consulting to possibly hire, is legally obligated to keep conversations about your case private. However, to ensure privacy is maintained, it’s necessary to know when and how to communicate and what kind of communications might not be shielded.
Privileged communication is a legal principle applicable in both civil and criminal cases. It involves interactions between two parties that the law deems protected because of the relationship between the two. Whatever is said or otherwise communicated between them is confidential, and neither can’t be forced or compelled to share it with anyone – including the courts or law enforcement.
Privileged relationships recognized by the law include:
- Reporters (only applicable in some states and in some situations)
By designating some professional relationships as privileged, the law recognizes that in some contexts, people have the right to expect privacy in their conversations. Patients need to know they can disclose things to their doctor without fear the doctor will make that information public. Clients (and potential clients) of Palm Beach injury lawyers need to know they can share details about what happened without worrying that what they share will become public knowledge. Clients or patients can choose to waive that right, but the presumption is that those conversations will be kept private. That means your attorney (or attorneys with whom you are consulting during initial consultations) cannot discuss the information you share with anyone else. It must be kept a secret.
Where Communication Takes Place
Where the communication takes place is important. For instance, your attorney’s office, your own living room, your hospital room – those are places where you generally have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This expectation extends to oral and written communications, as well as electronic exchanges of information.
However, this expectation of privacy shifts if that same communication is shared in other places or forums. For example, the law protects communications between spouses because privacy is critical to an open and trusting relationship. But if you share something with your spouse in a social media post, that particular communication isn’t going to be considered private, privileged communication. If you have a conversation with a lawyer in a crowded place where those conversations can be overheard by others, that communication may no longer be privileged.
When Attorney-Client Privilege Applies
The law recognizes some specific circumstances under which attorney-client privilege is applicable. These are:
- Communication with a lawyer for legal advice, even if you are not yet a client.
- When a lawyer who is acting is acting in a professional capacity (not simply talking off-the-cuff with someone who happens to be an attorney).
- When you as the client intend for the communication to be private, and handle it that way (not in a crowded, public forum or on social media).
It’s important in personal injury litigation that you feel at ease sharing all pertinent information with your lawyer. That said, you don’t want to put your lawyer in a position that would keep them from representing you to the best of their ability. For example, an attorney ethically cannot put you on the stand if they know or believe you’re going to lie under oath. So if you tell your attorney, “I’m not as badly hurt as I told my doctor,” he or she can’t reveal that information publicly, but it’s going to be problematic for your case.
Attorney-client privilege is essential to establishing trust and rapport between clients and their Palm Beach injury lawyers, something that is critical when you’re sharing sensitive information. However, it’s important to always be forthright with them and avoid putting them in a position where they will not be able to represent you properly.
One final note: Confidential information that you share with your lawyer is only privileged if you don’t waive it. That means not discussing what you talked about with outside parties, aside from perhaps your spouse. If you have questions about others with whom you can discuss your case, ask your lawyer first.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
F.S. 90.502, Lawyer-Client Privilege