Does having a criminal record affect the outcome of a personal injury case in any way?
This is a question that people often ask while discussing the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit against a third party. It is a valid concern, as most people – including juries – tend to see criminal records in a negative light.
The Impact of a Criminal Record on a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Generally speaking, a personal injury lawsuit stands on its own merits. As a plaintiff, you are only required to prove the following things:
- The defendant’s actions (deliberate or unintentional) caused the accident.
- You suffered financial and non-financial losses as a result of the accident.
If you can prove it, you will be awarded compensation which is proportionate to the injuries and other losses you suffered as a result of the accident.
If you, on the other hand, have a criminal record, the opposing counsel might try to use it against you and discredit your claims. Whether or not they are able to do so generally depends on what you were charged with and how long ago you were convicted.
For example, if you have been convicted for a breach of peace or disorderly conduct, the opposing counsel might not even bother to bring it up during the trial, since it has absolutely no relevance to your lawsuit.
If, on the other hand, you were convicted of a crime which included an element of fraud or forgery, the opposing counsel is likely to use it against you in a trial to imply that you are being dishonest with your claim.
How Your Criminal Record Might Be Used Against You
The primary goal of the opposing counsel is to discredit your claims by questioning your integrity and credibility. They do so in order to corner you and intimidate you into accepting a low settlement offer.
For example, if you have been convicted for defrauding a federal agency like Social Security Disability or Medicaid, the opposing counsel might bring it up during the trial and argue that you cannot be trusted, since you have a history of defrauding other people.
If they manage to convince the jury that your claims are exaggerated, it can weaken your case significantly. As a result, you might be left with no choice but to accept a low settlement offer from the defendant’s insurance company.
What Can You Do to Prevent Your Criminal Record from Being Used Against You?
First of all, make sure you disclose everything to your personal injury lawyer. You should tell them what you were convicted of, how long ago you were convicted, and whether you can prove that you have reformed as a person since then.
This is very important, because your personal injury lawyer needs to develop appropriate strategies for a number of “what-if” scenarios, including and especially the possibility of the opposing counsel using your criminal record against you. So, do not try to hide any detail – even if you think it is insignificant – from your lawyer.
Secondly, and more importantly, do not try to hide your criminal record or lie if you are asked about it by the opposing counsel. Defense attorneys are trained to catch witnesses in a lie – a process known as witness impeachment – and use it to discredit their claims. So, if you are caught lying under oath, the jury or judge might question the validity of your claims.
Your best option is to be upfront about your criminal record, discuss it with your lawyer, and be prepared for the possibility of the opposing counsel bringing it up during the trial.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can think of all the possible scenarios in which your criminal record might be used against you and devise the right counter strategies, so that your credibility is not called into question by anyone at the trial.
In some cases, your personal injury lawyer might be able to expunge some of your criminal records before the trial. In some other cases, your lawyer might advise you to waive a jury trial and let a judge decide your case.
If you have been convicted of serious crimes in the past, it is likely to affect the outcome of a jury trial. A judge, on the other hand, tends to be dispassionate and is likely to deliver a verdict based on the evidence presented, irrespective of your history.
Personal Injury Lawyers in Connecticut
The trial attorneys at APEX Law Firm have successfully represented a number of personal injury victims in Connecticut – including those with a criminal record – over the years. We know how to navigate the traps set by the opposing counsel and establish the defendant’s negligence. We can help you recover compensatory damages for your pain and suffering as well as the financial losses you suffered as a result of the accident. To talk to an experienced Connecticut personal injury lawyer, call us today at (860) 900-0900.