Everyone makes mistakes, and many good individuals have been convicted for a criminal offense. It might be a DUI or maybe a minor drug charge, or it could be a drunken disorderly conduct offense from your college days. Everyone deserves a second chance, and as time goes by, you seek to put the past behind you and move on.
Unfortunately, having a criminal history is not always easy to get away from. Prospective employers do not look kindly at someone who has a criminal record, and it can make it more difficult to secure housing, loans, college admission, or the right to carry firearms. Another instance when having a criminal background could become a factor is if you are involved in a personal injury claim.
To be clear, personal injury lawsuits are civil actions that operate independently from the criminal justice system. As such, everyone has the right to pursue monetary damages against a person or party that injured them, regardless of what might be in their criminal history. But while a criminal record should have no direct impact on your personal injury case, the other side may still try to use it against you if they become aware of it.
When Would a Criminal Record Matter in a Personal Injury Case?
In determining whether your criminal history might impact your personal injury claim, one of the first things to look at is the type of offense you were convicted of and if it is relevant to your current case. Typically, a criminal conviction would only be admissible if it helps prove or disprove something of consequence that is related to your claim.
For example, if you have a drunk driving conviction that happened 10 years ago and you are suing a retail store because you slipped and fell on a wet floor and hurt your back, the DUI would not appear to have any relevance with regards to your current claim. If, on the other hand, your offense involved some type of fraud or dishonesty, like passing a bad check, then the other side might try to use it to question your credibility.
What Can I Do About my Criminal Record in a PI Case?
The good news is that there is a good chance your criminal history will not even come up during your personal injury claim. The majority of injury cases never make it to trial in the first place, because it is generally in the best interests of all parties to settle without going through costly and protracted litigation. That said, you should always be prepared to go to trial if necessary, and as such, you should be ready to address your criminal record if it does come up.
With this in mind, the first thing you should do is tell your attorney everything you know about your criminal conviction. Your attorney needs to know all of the relevant facts, so they can deal with any potential negatives well ahead of time and put together the strongest possible case on your behalf.
After you inform your lawyer about your conviction, they could deal with it in a number of ways, depending on the specific circumstances in your case. For example, if you are preparing for trial, they may go over several potential scenarios with you to help ensure that you are fully prepared for what the other side might do. They will advise you to be upfront and honest about your criminal history if it comes up, and in fact, it might even make sense to get out in front of it by bringing it up to the court first and explaining it before the other side has a chance to.
The important thing is to avoid doing anything that might damage your credibility as a witness. Defense attorneys are very good at catching a witness in a lie in order to discredit their testimony, also known as “impeaching the witness”. Answer all of your questions honestly, so the other side is not able to do anything that would cause the jury to doubt your testimony.
Another possible option may be to expunge your criminal record before your personal injury case gets to trial. Expungement would remove your criminal history from the public record, so this might be a good option if your case qualifies.
Alabama only allows certain criminal offenses to be expunged, such as non-convictions for municipal violations, traffic offenses, ordinance violations, misdemeanors, and nonviolent felonies. Speak with your attorney to determine if expungement might be an appropriate strategy for your case.
Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer
Dealing with a criminal record is just one of numerous complicating factors that may come up when you are pursuing a personal injury claim. And because this is a complex area of the law, it makes sense to be represented by an attorney who has extensive experience with these types of cases.
Coumanis & York provides experienced representation for personal injury clients in the Mobile, AL area. We are also highly skilled at criminal law, and we have an in-depth understanding of how these two areas of the law intertwine. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call us at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251.431-7272 (Mobile). We look forward to serving you!