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Breaking Down Attorney-Client Privilege: What It Means and How It Can Affect Your Case

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Breaking Down Attorney-Client Privilege: What It Means and How It Can Affect Your Case

If you are injured in an accident or other situation, you might be entitled to compensation. You could receive economic damages for medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, property damages, and lost wages. You may also be given non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

The best way to understand your rights is to consult with a Boulder personal injury lawyer. However, you may be concerned about meeting with an attorney because you worry about maintaining privacy. If privacy and confidentiality are important to you, then attorney-client privilege can help.

What Is Privilege in a Legal Case?

Privilege protects certain evidence from being disclosed in a legal matter. A party cannot compel you to disclose privileged information and documents through discovery or testimony. The court cannot compel you to reveal privileged information without a valid legal reason.

Attorney-client privilege is the protection given to confidential communications between an attorney and their client. Your attorney cannot be forced to disclose privileged information during a deposition, court hearing, or discovery. Because the privilege belongs to the client, you would need to waive privilege before your attorney could disclose confidential information.

However, it should be noted there are exceptions to attorney-client privilege. Under specific circumstances, your attorney could be compelled to disclose privileged information.

The Rules for Attorney-Client Privilege in Colorado

Rule 1.6 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct explains the confidentiality of information in the client-lawyer relationship. According to the Rule, an attorney cannot reveal information related to representing the client unless:

  • The client provides informed consent for the attorney to disclose the information;
  • The authorization to disclose the information is implied to carry out the representation of the client; or,
  • The disclosure is permitted under the Rule

The Rule explains situations in which the lawyer can reveal confidential information. The lawyer must reasonably believe revealing the information is necessary to:

  • Prevent reasonably certain bodily harm or death
  • Reveal a client’s intent to commit a crime and the information to prevent the crime
  • Prevent a client from committing fraud that is likely to result in substantial financial harm to another related to the client’s use of the attorney’s services
  • Mitigate, prevent, or rectify substantial injury to property or the financial interests of another that is likely to result from the client’s fraud or crime related to the client’s use of the attorney’s services
  • Obtain legal advice about the attorney’s compliance with the Rules or a court order
  • Comply with the law or a court order
  • Identify and resolve conflicts of interest if there are changes in the attorney’s employment or ownership of the law firm, but only if the revealed information does not materially prejudice the client
  • Establish a defense or claim for the lawyer in a dispute between the client and the lawyer, a defense for the lawyer because of criminal or civil matters against the attorney because of the client’s actions, or to respond to proceedings related to the attorney’s representation of the client

The attorney has a duty to make reasonable efforts to prevent unauthorized or unintended disclosure of a client’s confidential information. The duty extends to unauthorized access to a client’s confidential information.

When Does Privilege Attach for Information Disclosed to an Attorney in Colorado?

Generally, there must be an attorney-client relationship before privilege attaches to the information disclosed by a client to a lawyer. The conditions that must be met are:

  • The communication and disclosures were between the lawyer and the client;
  • The client’s purpose in disclosing information to the lawyer was to obtain legal advice from the lawyer;
  • The lawyer acted within their professional capacity when receiving the confidential information from the client; and,
  • The client had a reasonable expectation that the lawyer would hold the information they disclosed in confidence.

Paying a retainer and hiring a law firm creates an attorney-client relationship. That relationship establishes privilege. However, privilege may or may not attach during a free consultation.

The argument could be made that a free consultation meets the criteria for attorney-client privilege. For example, you scheduled the free consultation for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. You discussed your situation with the lawyer, expecting the information to remain confidential. The attorney was acting within their professional capacity during the consultation.

If you are concerned about privilege during a consultation, discuss your concerns with the attorney before you disclose information you wish to remain confidential. The attorney can explain whether your consultation falls within the definition of privilege.

Why Is Attorney-Client Privilege Important During a Colorado Personal Injury Case?

Attorney-client privilege is designed to protect a client. It encourages the client to tell their attorney all information about their case. A lawyer cannot represent a client to the fullest of their ability without all pertinent information.

Most people relate attorney-client privilege to criminal cases. However, attorney-client privilege is important in all legal matters. Privilege encourages clients to be forthcoming and honest with their attorneys. It promotes effective communication, an essential element of a successful attorney-client relationship.

Attorney-client privilege applies in all personal injury cases, including:

In a personal injury case, it is crucial that you tell your attorney everything that could impact your case, including but not limited to:

  • Pre-existing conditions and prior injuries
  • Accidents that you have been involved in during the past
  • Whether you could be partially at fault for causing your accident or injuries
  • Prior convictions and arrests for criminal offenses
  • All personal injury cases you have filed in the past
  • Any new symptoms or injuries that you experience, although you should tell your doctor immediately

The above information could impact the strategy for your case and its outcome. However, if your Boulder personal injury lawyer knows about the matter, they can take steps to minimize negative impacts by dealing with the situation proactively.

Do You Have Questions About a Personal Injury Case or Attorney-Client Privilege?

Contact Tenge Law Firm at (303) 665-2929 for a free consultation. Our Boulder personal injury lawyers can help you understand and explore your legal options after an accident.

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