A criminal conviction can have a ripple effect on every part of your life. No matter what your criminal history may contain, it is likely that you never thought about how a personal injury case could be impacted by your past. Even though a criminal record should not directly affect your personal injury claim, unfortunately, it does not always work out this way.
What Juries Look at in a Personal Injury Case
To start, note that most personal injury cases never go to trial. The vast majority of cases are settled before the case ever reaches court. However, if your case does go to court, you do need to think about how the jury may look at it.
When a case goes to court, the opposing side will take any angle they can to discredit your case and protect their client. This may include exploiting your criminal past. It is likely true that your criminal record has nothing to do with your personal injury case, but that doesn’t always matter.
A criminal history may bias the jury against you and make them think that you are inherently untrustworthy. It may also make them more likely to see you as an “unworthy” victim. This is clearly unfair. A victim is a victim, they do not have to “earn” compensation by having a flawless past. Despite this, you can expect the other side to play on the jury’s human nature and try to paint you as a miscreant.
Your attorney will likely tackle this preemptively by pushing to have the criminal history suppressed. This prevents the other side from bringing it up in court.
Relevant Charges and Convictions
While having any criminal history can impact your case, certain types of charges can seriously endanger your chances at getting compensation. If you have charges of fraud in your history, those could indicate to jury members that you are untrustworthy. Much depends on the nature of your personal injury claim.
For example, if you are injured in a car crash caused by another party but you have a long history of reckless driving charges, the jury may be less sympathetic to you. They may believe that, because of your driving history, you are at fault for putting yourself and others on the road at risk of a crash.
How to Protect Yourself
First, be completely honest with your personal injury attorney. Many people try to hide their criminal history out of shame or fear of being dropped as a client. Hiding this information only prevents your attorney from fully protecting you and doing everything possible to poke holes in the other side’s case. If you are upfront, they can plan for the other side’s attacks and come up with viable defenses right away.
Similarly, do everything you can to assist your attorney and make your case as strong as possible. If they request specific paperwork, medical records, or other types of evidence, get it to them as quickly as possible.
In many situations, the best way to plan for an attack on your character is simply to make the case stand on its own merit. The stronger your personal injury case is, the less likely it is that your criminal record will even play a part in the decision.
Furthermore, make sure to stay out of trouble for the duration of your personal injury claim. Mistakes happen, but accruing additional criminal charges while your case is ongoing will almost certainly work against you and weaken the likelihood of you receiving full and fair compensation.
Our Team is Here to Help
When you are filing a personal injury claim with the pressure and potential stigma of a criminal record, an already stressful time can become even more challenging. Fortunately, you do not have to face this on your own. The team at Mann & Potter, P.C. is committed to building a strong personal injury case and helping you get the compensation you deserve. To find out more about how we can help you and what your legal options are, reach out to us today. Call us at 205-627-3186 or fill out our contact form to get started.