When someone decides to pursue a personal injury claim after being harmed by another’s negligence, there are a lot of things that could impact the outcome of their case. One example of this is if the plaintiff has a history of prior driving convictions. Could this information be admitted as evidence during settlement negotiations or at a court trial and be used against you?
Greg Coleman Law answers some important questions about prior convictions and how they could impact the outcome of a personal injury claim in Tennessee.
If you have legal questions after being injured by another’s negligence, our Knoxville personal injury lawyers are here to help. We have extensive experience and proven results.
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How a Prior Conviction Could Impact an Injury Claim
If you are a plaintiff seeking damages in a personal injury claim, any prior convictions in your history could possibly be used to discredit you. An insurance company is not likely to agree to a large settlement if they have information about you that could allow them to pay far less or nothing at all.
For example, say you are the plaintiff in a car crash claim. After providing testimony of your safe driving record, the insurance company and legal counsel for the other side will likely investigate the truth of that statement. If the defendant’s attorney finds you have a prior DUI conviction and admits it as evidence, it could seriously hurt your chances of recovering compensation. Even if you were not in any way to blame for the crash, your prior conviction damages your credibility. The fact that you also tried to hide this information makes you look even more dishonest.
That said, the judge in the case would have to review the evidence first to determine whether it is relevant and/or unfairly prejudiced. In some cases, even if the evidence is deemed to be relevant, a judge may choose not to allow it. This is just one reason why having an attorney fight to protect your interests could benefit the outcome of your claim.
What Can I Do if I Have a Prior Conviction?
There are a few steps that you can take, and the first one should be to speak with an attorney. He or she can discuss the unique circumstances of your situation. Depending on contributing factors, you may still be able to move forward with a claim.
Strategies an attorney may recommend in this situation include:
- Being completely upfront and honest with your attorney: Whatever you share with him or her is protected by attorney-client privilege. Leaving out critical or relevant information is a mistake. Disclosing everything to your attorney enables him or her to develop a strategy to help minimize any potential damage.
- Waiving your right to a jury trial: If a settlement cannot be reached because of issues stemming from your conviction, your attorney may recommend having your case decided only by a judge. A judge is less likely to be emotional about a situation and therefore more likely to render a decision based on facts and the evidence at hand.
- Applying to have your conviction expunged: If you were charged, but never convicted, or more than five years have passed since the conviction, and it was for a misdemeanor or lesser Class E crime, you may be able to expunge the record with the help of a criminal lawyer. However, you must not have accrued any new convictions during that time.
Types of Convictions That May Be Admissible
Only convictions that were contested and lost may be admitted as evidence - and only if the judge allows it.
Convictions that could be admissible may include:
- Driving tickets for speeding, reckless endangerment, DUI and more
- Convictions for perjury, forgery or other more serious crimes
Convictions that are more recent in your history are more likely to be admitted than those which are older and/or have no relevance to your case.
Injured in a Crash and Have a Prior Conviction?
At Greg Coleman Law, we are always ready to help injury victims seek compensation for injuries caused by the negligence of others.
Find out if you may have a valid claim by contacting our law firm today. We are available to take your call anytime, night or day. Your initial consultation is completely free, and there is no obligation to retain our services. If you do hire our firm and we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front. We take personal injury cases on contingency, so you only pay us our fee if we recover compensation for you.
Experienced. Local. Lawyers. (865) 247-0080