How a Criminal Record Can Affect a Personal Injury Case
While there is no relationship between your past crime and your personal injury claim, most people will perceive a criminal record negatively. In a significant number of personal injury lawsuits, the jury is made up of ordinary citizens who will evaluate the plaintiff’s personal injury claim. A jury may have a critical view of a criminal record. But how serious will the consequences of a criminal record be for your case?
It depends on the type of crime you committed and when you were convicted. For instance, if you received a DUI conviction more than ten years ago, the effect will likely be minimal. In general, the longer the time that has elapsed after the crime and the less severe the nature of the crime, the better the results.
If you were convicted of a crime that involves deceit or dishonesty, it is likely to have a more adverse impact. In general, juries are wary of giving compensation to plaintiffs who have been convicted of an offense that involves lying or grave criminal misconduct, unless there is evidence that they have changed their life around.
A conviction’s impact will be more detrimental if it has occurred recently as it does not provide the offender with as much time to prove that they have changed for the better. For instance, the jury may view the plaintiff’s character with suspicion if they were convicted for forgery in the recent past.
The Best Way Forward
When it comes to your criminal record, it is best to be honest and hire a skilled lawyer. You will undoubtedly be questioned about your criminal history at various points in life. When faced with such questions, answer honestly and offer the details of your offense and subsequent conviction.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to reveal your criminal record, the defense will find out about your conviction sooner or later and use it to prove that you are deceitful, which will affect your claim and possible recovery.
If you have a checkered criminal history, your lawyer may recommend waiving a jury trial altogether. A judge will then rule on your case. In comparison to a jury, judges are usually more rational and logical decision-makers. Juries tend to have a more emotional response to the plaintiff’s damages. However, if the plaintiff has a criminal background, these emotions could turn negative.
The Effect of a Criminal Record on a Personal Injury Claim
If the plaintiff has a criminal record, it could harm their personal injury claim in the following ways:
- Upon filing a personal injury case, the credibility of the plaintiff will often be under the microscope. For instance, if the plaintiff has been convicted for fraud or perjury, the evidence on that conviction can potentially be reviewed and may have a significant impact on any settlement offers.
- Your personal injury claim will likely be weakened with any serious felony convictions, particularly recent ones. Insurance companies are less likely to offer substantial amounts of money to an individual with a grave crime such as forgery on their record.
- At times, defense lawyers will present a plaintiff’s criminal background to try to discredit them through a process known as impeachment, which essentially means to catch them lying. If, say, the plaintiff states that they have a safe driving record, the defense lawyer will likely investigate to see if they have committed any past traffic offenses.
In general, serious and more recent criminal convictions will have a more profound effect on a personal injury claim than minor offenses committed several years ago.
“Impeaching the witness” in the courtroom means catching the witness being dishonest or lying. An attorney for the opposing side could use your criminal background as a means to entrap you.
For example, you might believe that your traffic ticket is of no relevance in a slip-and-fall claim, and not suspect anything when an attorney inquires whether you ever got a ticket for speeding. If you testify that you did not drive over the speed limit and the attorney produces a speeding ticket, they have just caught you in a lie. After this, almost anything you say will be suspect.
Legal Help from a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney
Be cautious of everything that the opposing party could potentially use against you. Your attorney can ensure that you don’t forget anything. Reviewing your county arrest records and performing a background check on yourself is a good idea as you will better understand what the other side will see.
To prevent problems before they start, be upfront and honest about your past. An experienced lawyer can help finesse your testimony on the stand so that you are not entrapped. Further, it may be possible to erase certain criminal convictions even before going to trial.
Do not let a past criminal conviction stop you from claiming your rightful compensation in a personal injury case. At the Law Offices of Ron Aslam, a seasoned criminal defense lawyer can guide you on how to best deal with your criminal background. For a free initial consultation, call today at (502) 581-1676.