Here’s What You Need to Know About Attorney-Client Privilege
“Is this a safe place for me to share?”
If you’ve been involved in a legal proceeding, you may have asked a question like this (or at least thought about it). It can feel confusing to know when you can speak openly without fear of your words being used against you. Thankfully, individuals receiving legal services have a legally established right to speak to their attorney in confidence. This rule is called the attorney-client privilege.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other damages. A Florida injury attorney at Searcy Denney can help you understand what legal remedies might be available to you. If you’re thinking about contacting an attorney, make sure you understand when attorney-client privilege does – and doesn’t – apply and how it can support your conversations.
A Foundational Legal Principle
The attorney-client privilege has a rich history that predates the independence of the United States of America. It’s been around in some shape or form since the 16th century when its use was noted in England. At first, the privilege prevented attorneys from testifying against their clients. The rule was strengthened and clarified over the centuries to become an essential component of any interaction between attorneys and those they serve. So, it’s only natural that you’ll want to know about how the attorney-client privilege might affect your communications when you contact a Florida injury attorney.
A Zone of Confidentiality
The attorney-client privilege generally protects communication between a lawyer and client from being disclosed to any third party, including government agencies and other parties in a legal dispute. When the privilege applies, as explained below, an attorney can neither be required to nor choose to disclose matters that a client shares with them in confidence. A client can choose to waive this privilege at their discretion, but an attorney may not.
This protection of confidentiality is designed to encourage open and honest communication between attorneys and clients. Theoretically, the rule serves as a ‘win-win’ for both attorneys and clients. Attorneys gain access to frank and open communication from their clients – allowing them to gather a fuller knowledge of the situation. They can then use that knowledge to best serve their clients as they provide legal advice and seek justice on their behalf. Clients, meanwhile, can feel protected as they share in a “zone of confidentiality” without fear of information being used against them.
If you choose to seek an attorney, keep this in mind. Attorneys need to know what you know, so you can be honest and forthcoming in your conversations with them. For accident or injury victims, an experienced Florida injury attorney at Searcy Denney is standing by to learn more about your claim and help you understand the options that might be available to you. Call for a free case evaluation.
When Does Attorney-Client Privilege Apply?
Although the attorney-client privilege applies in many situations, there are other situations where it may not. Let’s first establish some conditions in which it does apply:
- The communication takes place in the context of a legal relationship. If you, as the client, are speaking with an attorney about legal advice, the privilege should apply. Even preliminary conversations with a potential attorney may apply – although you will want to confirm this before you share something you’d rather keep private.
- The communication takes place while the lawyer is acting in a professional capacity. If you’re speaking with an attorney who also happens to be a friend, acquaintance, or family member, make sure you’re both on the same page about the purpose of your conversation. If you intend to seek legal services, make sure both parties understand that.
- You intended the communication to be private. This one’s pretty simple. If you’re talking to an attorney and mean for the conversation to be confidential, then privilege will likely apply.
When Doesn’t Attorney-Client Privilege Apply?
There are limited circumstances where the rule may not apply or is rendered ineffective, and you’ll want to be aware of these as well.
- You share an intent to commit a crime or fraud. Many times, attorneys may be allowed to, or required to, share information that would prevent death, serious injury, or financial fraud. (Of course, it’s in your best interest as the client to refrain from committing a crime or fraud!)
- A third party is present. If someone else is present for the conversation between you and your attorney, they are not your attorney and, therefore, not subject to the same privilege. Presumably, anyone who wants to determine the topic of your conversation can just ask the other party in the discovery process.
- The confidential information is discovered through other means. Remember, if there is something you don’t want others to know, you can’t simply make it subject to attorney-client privilege by sharing it with your attorney. If there are underlying facts or evidence connected to your confidential information, the attorney-client privilege can’t prevent them from being discovered or shared. The details of your specific conversation may be privileged, but the underlying facts or evidence will not be.
Given the second and third items above, it’s often a good idea to avoid discussing the incident that caused the accident or injury. Suppose you intended to share information in confidence with your attorney, but you also wrote about it on social media or discussed it with a family member. In that situation, that evidence could be used against you, or a family member might be deposed – allowing the other party to, in a way, bypass your privileged conversation with your attorney.
Have Questions About Attorney-Client Privilege? Contact a Florida Injury Attorney at Searcy Denney Today
Were you injured in an accident? If so and you have questions about your case and attorney-client privilege, contact Searcy Denney today. An experienced Florida injury attorney at Searcy Denney can help you determine whether you are entitled to damages. Call us toll-free at 800-780-8607 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with a Florida injury attorney. We have offices conveniently located in Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Tallahassee.