We all do things in our lives that we are not proud of and would rather not let anyone know about. Or there’s something in our past that we think may hurt our case so we don’t tell our lawyer about it. It is essential that you be brutally honest with your lawyer about everything in your past, particularly if you think it may adversely affect your case. If you don’t tell your lawyer, chances are the other side will find out about it anyway and use that knowledge against you.
For example, you may decide not to tell your lawyer that you were convicted of drunk driving some years ago, because you’re afraid the jury may think you’re a bad person who doesn’t deserve to be compensated in the case at hand. What inevitably happens is that the other side finds out about it and brings it out at trial to prove you’re an untrustworthy person who can’t be believed. Your lawyer is caught unawares and doesn’t know how to respond and minimize the damage.
Don’t Let The Insurance Company Find Something Your Lawyer Doesn’t Know
Even if you think something in your past may potentially hurt your case – or especially if you think something in your past may hurt your case – and you don’t tell your lawyer about it, you can bet your bottom dollar that the defendant’s insurance company will most likely find out about it. Unlike your lawyer, who has limited funds to investigate and prepare your case, the insurance company has almost unlimited funds to investigate you and seemingly everything you’ve ever done in your past. And the more serious your case and injuries are, the more money the insurance company will spend to find out everything you’ve ever done wrong.
The insurance company will run searches of all criminal records to find out if you’ve ever run afoul of the law. It will search all civil records to see if you are a vexatious litigant, i.e., someone who files baseless and spurious lawsuits in hopes of winning a jackpot jury verdict, or whether you’ve ever filed a claim for injuries to the same area of your body. Particularly in more serious cases, the insurance company will spare no expense on investigators to look into every nook and cranny of your past. If you’ve ever done something wrong in your life that may hurt your case, it’s a sure bet the insurance company will find out about it. So don’t hold back on telling your lawyer everything, even if you think it may adversely affect your case, so your lawyer can prepare a way to defuse any harm the information may cause.
Important Things You Must Tell Your Lawyer
Here are some things you must absolutely tell your lawyer:
- You must tell your lawyer anything and everything that may affect your credibility in the eyes of the jury. If, for example, you were convicted or pled guilty to passing a bad check, the jury may believe you are an untruthful person.
- You must also tell your lawyer about any and all injuries you may have sustained in your lifetime, especially if the injury involved the same or nearby area of your body, regardless of how long ago you may have been injured. Some injuries, such as to the knee, neck, or back, may get worse over time just by the normal wear and tear of normal everyday use.
- Your lawyer also needs to know about any previous litigation or claims you have been involved in, even if it involves a completely different area of the law. If you’re bringing a personal injury case, the fact that you have filed a previous personal injury case may imply to the jury that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries or, worse yet, you may be faking your injuries altogether. But suppose you’ve brought a personal injury case but the earlier case you filed was for fraud against an automobile dealership. The jury may believe that you are one of those people who file frivolous (groundless) in hopes of striking it rich with a large settlement or jury award. This is especially true of people who have filed multiple lawsuits. Some people think of the judicial system as a large gambling enterprise where anybody with a slick lawyer can strike it rich.
The More Prepared Your Lawyer Is, The Better They Can Represent You
If you are completely open and honest with your lawyer, including telling him or her about the things you think may hurt your case, your lawyer will be able to prepare a good defense to or explanation of the things you fear will harm your case. Quite often, things that you think will harm your case will be irrelevant or otherwise inadmissible in court. And even if they are permissible in court, if your lawyer knows about them he or she can be ready to mount a good defense against them.
A Particular Type of Strategy
One common strategy used by many trial lawyers is to disclose the potentially harmful material early in the trial. This has at least two main effects: First, the jury will often believe the information is not that damaging or the attorney would not have brought it out so early in the trial. And second, the attorney is going to be open and honest with the jury and tell them all about the case, the good as well as the bad. The jury will thus be more likely to believe your side of the case and return with a verdict in your favor, and more likely with a higher amount than if your attorney had not disclosed the unfavorable information so early in the trial.
So be sure to be completely open and honest with your lawyer about everything you’ve ever done in your past even if you think it may hurt your present case, so your lawyer can prepare a valid defense to or explanation of the adverse information, and not be caught unawares at trial.