Sometimes plaintiffs are afraid of filing a personal injury case, because they have a criminal record. While some criminal offenses could be relevant to your civil claim, they will not bar you from filing suit to recover damages.
Talking to the Law Offices of Tim Misny is the easiest way to find out whether your criminal record could impact your personal injury case. An experienced attorney will be able to explain whether they expect your record to be brought up—and how they can minimize any harm to your credibility.
Criminal records and civil cases
Generally, a criminal record can only be highlighted when the offense is relevant to the case. A DUI conviction three years ago probably won’t be relevant in a slip and fall case—but it could be key in a car accident lawsuit.
Because criminal convictions can unfairly prejudice a jury, the judge will determine whether the value of the evidence outweighs the potential harm to your case. Even relevant convictions may be inadmissible if the judge decides it would create unfair bias.
A question of credibility
In civil cases, evidence of prior convictions is used to cast doubt on the witness’s credibility. That is, it can affect whether a jury finds the witness believable and trustworthy. For example, a witness’s fraud conviction could damage their credibility—a jury could reasonably conclude the conviction is evidence of general dishonesty.
Convictions can also be used for impeachment purposes. In both civil and criminal cases, “impeachment” is a way of catching someone in a lie. If a plaintiff gets on the stand and swears they are a safe driver, evidence of a DUI conviction could be used to prove they’re lying.
Whose criminal records can be used?
Every witness’s credibility can be called into question, including the plaintiff and defendant. If an eyewitness testifies to what they saw, but have a long history of crimes of dishonesty, a jury might give their testimony less weight than a squeaky-clean witness.
This is why it’s important to be honest with your lawyer. While a criminal record may not even come up at trial, your attorney needs to know if it’s a possibility. They will be able to craft potential defenses, or work to exclude the evidence before trial.
The Law Offices of Tim Misny can help with your personal injury claim, even if you have a criminal record. Call today to learn more about your options.
Talk to an Ohio personal injury lawyer
The Law Offices of Tim Misny can represent your personal injury case. When you’re the victim of negligence or recklessness, I’ll Make Them Pay!® Call my office at 877-614-9524 so that I can evaluate your case right away.