If you’ve ever watched court shows or police procedurals, you probably have a passing familiarity with attorney-client privilege. However, many people have misconceptions about what it is and what they can or cannot do with privileged information.
Every state has their own rules about attorney-client privilege, but they’re all quite similar: an attorney may not disclose private communications with their client except in very limited circumstances. The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct describe what, where, when and how an attorney may disclose privileged information.
What is ‘Privileged Communication?’
Privileged communication between an attorney and client is, in its most essential form, any private conversation or information shared between an attorney and their client. This requires you to form a legitimate attorney-client relationship, first—for example, hiring an attorney for your case.
Anything you share with your attorney in a private setting is automatically privileged, with a few exceptions. That means that the attorney can claim privilege if opposing counsel demands that information, and will not have to turn it over.
This is often comforting to clients whose cases involve revealing embarrassing personal information. While you may end up needing to reveal that information anyway, your attorney won’t share it until absolutely necessary. For example, a personal injury client may be humiliated to reveal that they’ve experienced sexual dysfunction as a result of their injuries. Eventually, that will come out during the case because the demand for relief should include all of their injuries—but your attorney can’t tell their colleagues over drinks.
When Can an Attorney Reveal Privileged Information?
There are some circumstances where an attorney is allowed to reveal privileged information. They include but are not limited to:
- When a client has given their informed consent;
- When the attorney reasonably believes it necessary to prevent the commission of a crime;
- To prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily injury;
- When the client has used the attorney’s services in furtherance of committing an illegal or fraudulent act that will cause substantial financial harm; and
- When the court orders it.
The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct Section 1.6 covers all possible situations where an attorney might disclose private information.
What Happens if the Client Reveals Privileged Information?
If you tell your attorney something in confidence, but then you turn around and tell someone else, that information is no longer privileged. The opposing counsel could ostensibly call the other person to testify as to what you told them.
Consult an Ohio Personal Injury Attorney Today
A great personal injury attorney will be happy to explain how attorney-client privilege works, and my team is no exception. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, I’ll Make Them Pay!® Call me today at 877.614.9524 for a consultation.