You may have heard a lawyer on TV refuse to provide information on the basis that it is “privileged,” but what exactly does that mean? The following is a brief summary of attorney-client privilege and what it means for you as someone who has been injured and is in need of legal counsel.
Privilege vs. Confidentiality
Privileged information and confidential information may sound the same, but there are a couple key differences to understand.
Privileged materials are communications between privileged persons. That includes communications between a client seeking and an attorney giving legal advice, which are meant to be confidential, and which, at the option of the client, may be kept from the opposing side. Confidentiality includes privileged communications but also other information which a lawyer may not divulge without client consent, court order, or some other specified exception. That means confidentiality covers a much broader range of communication than privilege.
What is the point and why should I care?
The purpose of attorney-client privilege is to allow clients to discuss issues openly with their attorney in order to obtain legal advice without fear that those communications will be disclosed to third parties. If you get the privilege “wrong” there may be consequences for your claim. One of the biggest concerns with privileged information is waiver of that privilege.
If you waive, either knowingly or otherwise, the privilege for one document or conversation, you open yourself up to the argument that you may have waived privilege with respect to other documents or conversations covering the same subject matter. If you want information to remain privileged you must keep it confidential. In other words, if you share privileged information with people besides your attorney and or their office staff, you lost the protection of privilege. This can severely jeopardize your chances of winning in litigation and could lead to a damages award to the other side, as well as the release of potentially embarrassing communications you thought were privileged.
If you have been injured in an accident or have concerns about attorney-client privilege related to your civil claim please call 651-493-0426 for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.