After you have been injured in an accident, hiring an attorney can be an intimidating process. You’ll need to find an attorney who practices the type of law that applies to your case. Then you’ll have to determine which one will advocate for your rights the best. Finally, you will have to trust them. For anyone, depending on someone they just met can be challenging. Anything you tell or show your attorney must remain with them. Understanding this attorney-client privilege can help you feel more comfortable trusting your attorney.
What Is Attorney-Client Privilege?
The attorney-client privilege is one of the oldest privileges recognized today, dating back to the 16th century. Since then, rules have solidified attorney-client privilege as law and outlined specific characteristics of it.
At its base, the attorney-client privilege provides clients the freedom to discuss anything they feel is necessary without fear that their lawyer will reveal their secrets— allowing the lawyer to provide unbiased, accurate legal information. Attorney-client privilege enables the lawyer to know the full story. When a client fails to disclose the whole truth to their lawyer, the information may blindside the lawyer and harm the client.
As a prospective client, attorney-client confidentiality allows you to feel more comfortable talking with your attorney because you can rest easy knowing the attorney cannot share the information you have disclosed. In practice, your attorney cannot be compelled (required by a court) or voluntarily disclose any matter you have discussed with them in confidence. On the other side, as the client, you cannot be compelled to testify about discussions you have had with your attorney. This privilege protects both parties and helps maintain a fair and just legal system.
What Laws Govern Attorney-Client Privilege?
Throughout the years of the evolution of the attorney-client privilege, there is not one single source of how attorney-client privilege is defined. But it is widely known and accepted as containing the following elements:
- Legal advice must be sought from a professional legal advisor (an attorney) in their legal capacity.
- The communications must relate to the attorney’s legal capacity.
- Your statements must be made in confidence.
- You did not waive the privilege.
These elements must all be present for the attorney-client privilege to apply. Notice the last element is a lack of waiver. The attorney-client privilege is waivable, meaning if you, as the client choose to waive the privilege, your attorney may disclose information that you have given them. This typically comes into play during settlement negotiations.
Georgia Rules Of Professional Conduct
Each state has a set of rules that all licensed attorneys must follow to maintain their license. In Georgia, they are known as the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. If an attorney fails to follow these rules, a disciplinary proceeding may happen, and the attorney may lose their license for a period of time or indefinitely.
In Georgia, Rule 1.6 spells out the attorney-client privilege and how attorneys must follow it when they are working in a firm and changing firms. If an attorney works for firm A and represents you but later changes jobs and works for firm B representing your adversary, the attorney can not work with firm B. Therefore, they still have to keep your confidential information confidential.
When Does Attorney-Client Privilege Start?
In order for the attorney-client privilege to be in effect, there must first be an attorney-client relationship. This relationship must be firmly established, and the privilege does not start until both parties have formed the relationship. Generally, an attorney will have an engagement agreement, fee contract, or an oral agreement that the client will either sign or clearly understand. The relationship can also be formed if the attorney does legal work on behalf of the client, such as filing court paperwork or drafting documents.
If you are unsure if your information is protected under this very powerful privilege, ask your attorney, who can help determine if your information will be covered.
Georgia Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you know has suffered a personal injury accident in Georgia, the attorneys at Dozier Law are ready to help you. We will keep your information confidential so we can represent you properly. Call 888-239-2129 to schedule your risk-free confidential consultation, or visit us online today.