Will my previous conviction affect my personal injury claim?

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February 11, 2015
Edward Smith

A previous arrest or conviction may or may not affect your personal injury claim. It will depend on the type of conviction, how long ago the conviction or arrest was made, and the details surrounding the arrest.  The best rule of thumb is to bring the arrest or conviction up with the details surrounding the matter to your personal injury attorney when you first meet with their office so that a case by case analysis could be made and succinct advice relating to your situation be given.

The reality is if someone was arrested and the charges later dropped then the likelihood of this playing a large role in your personal injury claim is very unlikely.

Additionally, a conviction for a misdemeanor crime cannot be presented nor are they admissible before a jury.

Some cases are settled out of court and therefore typically do not require the release or discussion of a person’s previous criminal history.

Should an arrest occur but no conviction then questions regarding the arrest cannot be raised before a jury.

However, if a personal injury claim cannot be resolved out of court and an attorney must file suit in your behalf, then the process known as ‘discovery’ begins.  One of the discoverable questions in Form Interrogatories that is required to be answered is question 2.8 which reads, ‘ Have you ever been convicted of a felony? If so, state the city and state of your conviction, the date of conviction, offense, and court and case number.’ At this point, any previous convictions must be declared under the penalty of perjury.  Additionally, during a deposition, this question may be introduced.  If the question is denied during a deposition or interrogatory, when it is in fact true that a conviction exists, then dishonesty as to the existence of a felony conviction would be what would damage a personal injury claim. In this instance, a defense lawyer would use it to demonstrate dishonesty and it will be used to attack credibility.

However, the admission of the conviction of a crime in deposition or in interrogatories, does not mean that the matter can be bought up before a jury.  While a plaintiff may have to admit it to the insurance company or their attorney the fact that such a felony conviction exists, this declaration is to prove the truthfulness of the injured party regarding their past and establishes evidence of an honest person when the felony is admitted to.

Should a person with a prior conviction have a personal injury case that must be resolved by means of a jury trial, the personal injury attorney will likely prepare a motion that such evidence not be brought up during the trial.

If a conviction is for a crime related to honesty – for instance, a previous impeachment, perjury or forgery charge or other crimes involving honesty, then the law states that this conviction can be bought up in front of a jury if it occurred 10 years ago or less.

Should a judge allow that such a crime be brought up to a jury this does not mean all is lost.  Much will depend on how likeable of a person you are to the jury, evidence of rehabilitation post conviction, and an overall truthful and direct manner.

Additionally, while it may have some affect the overall dollar amount gained to be slightly reduced, it will likely not completely change the overall outcome of the trial by jury.

Please feel free to discuss your personal injury claim with me, Edward A Smith, of the Edward A Smith Law Offices.  I can be reached via telephone at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.

My staff and I  have successfully resolved hundreds of personal injury claims a year and  would be happy to provide a free no-obligation consultation.  Please see what others are saying about their experience with our office on Facebook, Yelp, Avvo or Google.