We all make mistakes. And sometimes, good people can end up in trouble with the law. Maybe it was something you did when you are younger – a minor drug possession arrest or getting convicted for drunk driving. Unfortunately, even minor criminal convictions can come back to haunt a person for several years to come.
One area where a criminal record can sometimes have an impact is when an individual is involved in a personal injury claim. It should not be this way. A personal injury case is a civil case that should stand on its own merits, because it has nothing to do with whatever criminal history you may have. But regardless, the other side might still try to use it to undermine your credibility during a civil claim.
How your Criminal Background Might be used Against You During a Personal Injury Claim
Since the primary goal of the defendant is to pay you as little as possible for your injury, they will look for any way they can to discredit your claim. They will do this in a number of ways, and one of the most common is to allege that your injuries are not as severe as you say they are. To accomplish this, they might try to catch you in a lie or demonstrate somehow that you have a history of being dishonest. This is where your criminal record might become a factor.
For example, if your criminal offense has something to do with fraud, such as writing a bad check or defrauding Medicaid or Social Security, the opposing counsel might argue that you cannot be trusted. If they are able to convince a jury of this, then it could significantly weaken your case.
There is some good news in all of this, however. First of all, if your offense is not related to fraud – like the drug possession or DUI examples we mentioned earlier – then it should not be relevant to your case. The only way offenses like these could really hurt you is if you deny that they exist, and you are caught in a lie. As long as you are honest about them, they should not be a big deal.
Secondly, the vast majority of personal injury cases never end up in litigation. Trials are costly, time consuming, and unpredictable. For this reason, it is generally in everyone’s best interests to settle a claim before it ever gets to that point. Some cases do end up at trial, however, because there are instances when the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith and you have no choice but to litigate. When this happens, you need to be ready to address whatever criminal history you may have.
What Can you do About your Criminal History?
First and foremost, be upfront with your attorney and let them know about your criminal background (and anything else that might be relevant to your case for that matter). Your attorney can best serve you by knowing all of the facts, especially those that might be damaging to your claim. By getting all of it out in the open, you and your attorney will have time to prepare an effective response.
Depending on the specific criminal offense/s you may have, your attorney will develop a strategy for dealing with it. This might include:
- Being Proactive with the Information: One possible tactic might be for you to bring up your criminal history during the trial before the other side has a chance to. This would allow you to put this information in proper perspective for the jury, and they would also be more likely to see you as honest and upfront.
- Waiving a Jury Trial: Your lawyer might decide to have you waive your right to a jury trial and have the case decided by a judge. Judges are more dispassionate and less emotional than juries, and they are more likely to render a verdict based on the facts and evidence of the case – irrespective of some irrelevant criminal offense you may have.
- Expungement: If you have a criminal arrest but you were not convicted, you may be eligible to have your record expunged. The Florida expungement process is complicated, however, so be sure you are working with a personal injury attorney who also has in depth criminal defense experience.
Contact a Seasoned Pensacola, FL Attorney
If you have suffered any type of personal injury that was someone else’s fault, do not let a past criminal offense keep you from pursuing the full and fair compensation you deserve. There are many ways to minimize the impact of a criminal record on your civil case, and your attorney will work closely with you to develop the right strategy.
In the Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, and Fairhope, AL, contact Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett for experienced legal guidance. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.