Everyone makes mistakes, and there are times when people get in trouble with the law because they had a moment when the exercised poor judgment. Maybe this was something that happened during your college days – a DUI or minor drug possession charge while you were a student at Auburn, for example – that has remained on your record ever since.
Unfortunately, having a criminal record can affect many other areas of your life, and being involved in a personal injury claim is one example. If you got hurt in an accident in Auburn through no fault of your own, this would result in a civil claim for damages, and the case should stand on its own merits regardless of any criminal history you may have. But things do not always work out this way.
The defendant in a personal injury claim, which is often the insurance company for the at fault party, will look for any way they can to undermine the plaintiff’s credibility. You must keep in mind that the goal of the insurer is to pay out as little as possible to compensate the injured party for their losses, and toward that end, they might try to bring up the plaintiff’s criminal background.
The Impact of a Plaintiff’s Criminal History in a Personal Injury Case
As mentioned previously, a personal injury claim should stand or fall on its own merits. As a plaintiff, you are only required to prove that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent you from getting injured.
- The defendant’s actions (whether deliberate or unintentional) constituted a breach in their duty of care.
- You suffered compensable losses (both economic and noneconomic) resulting from the defendant’s actions.
If you can prove these elements, you should be awarded compensation that is proportionate to your losses.
Whether or not a criminal record might impact the case depends on many specific factors. Two of the most important are how long it has been since you got into trouble and what type of offense you were charged and/or convicted of.
If the offense had something to do with fraud – for example, defrauding Social Security or writing a bad check at an Auburn grocery store – then the defendant might argue that you can’t be trusted and that your claims are exaggerated. If, on the other hand, you had a minor drug possession offense that happened when you were in college, it will be far more difficult for them to make the case that this offense is relevant to your current claim.
What Can be Done to Keep your Criminal Record from Affecting your Auburn PI Claim?
Fortunately, there are some ways to mitigate the impact your criminal history might have on your current injury case. First of all, keep in mind that the majority of personal injury cases never end up being litigated, because it is generally in everyone’s best interests to settle out of court. If there is no trial, then your criminal record is not likely to give you too much trouble.
All of that said, there are some instances when a defendant is not willing to negotiate in good faith, and when this happens, the plaintiff must be ready to try the case. In preparation for trial, your attorney will thoroughly assess the entire situation and develop appropriate strategies for all of the “what if” scenarios.
It is very important to be honest with your attorney about your criminal history and any other relevant facts that they should know. By putting everything out on the table from the start, there will be time to effectively address any potentially damaging factors.
Your attorney might decide to deal with your criminal history by being upfront and bringing it up before the other side is able to. This way, you can properly frame the issue for the jury, making it more likely that they will see you as a credible person.
Another possible way you could go is to waive your right to a jury trial and have a judge decide your case. Judges tend to be more dispassionate and less emotional than juries, and they are far less likely to hold your criminal record against you.
Finally, there could be a possibility of having your criminal record expunged before any trial. Alabama only allows expungements of arrest records if there was no conviction, and the charge was for a nonviolent felony or misdemeanor. Speak with your attorney to find out if an expungement may be possible in your case.
Contact an Experienced Auburn, AL Attorney for Further Assistance
Criminal and civil claims are separate areas of the law, but sometimes the two intertwine. When that is the case, it is most beneficial to work with an attorney who has extensive experience with both areas. In Auburn and the surrounding areas, contact the Alsobrook Law Group for strong legal guidance. Message us online or call our office today at (334) 737-3718 for a free initial consultation.