Florida trial lawyer, Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD discusses how a past criminal conviction will impact your Florida accident or medical malpractice case original post at gsdimartino.com.
We all have a past. Some of us had some brushes with the law and possibly was convicted of a crime or did time in jail or prison. Should this past mistake negatively impact recovery in a Florida personal injury or medical malpractice claim?
Will a Florida jury learn about your prior criminal conviction if you file a lawsuit? Will the insurance adjuster know about your past criminal conviction when she makes an offer in your case?
No judgment here. We have all done things in the past that we are not proud of. We all have things that we would like to put in a closet and never reveal to strangers, especially jurors. If you have been injured in an accident and you make a claim for these injuries – all your past stuff, like past criminal convictions, may come up.
Is a past criminal conviction relevant?
I know what you're saying. I have heard clients echo the sentiment many times. What does that shoplifting conviction or the fact that my buddies and I took a family members car for a joy ride when we were in college have to do with the fact that I broke my arm in the car accident. You're right. The past conviction for shoplifting or joyriding has nothing to do with the accident and your injury. Florida law, on the other hand, says that when you make a personal injury claim – you put your character at issue, and arguably, shoplifting or joy riding has something to do with character. Let's take a look at what Florida law says about past criminal conviction(s):
(1) A party may attack the credibility of any witness, including an accused, by evidence that the witness has been convicted of a crime if the crime was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of 1 year under the law under which the witness was convicted, or if the crime involved dishonesty or a false statement regardless of the punishment, with the following exceptions:
(a) Evidence of any such conviction is inadmissible in a civil trial if it is so remote in time as to have no bearing on the present character of the witness.
In plain English, if a person has been convicted of a misdemeanor the conviction is relevant to their truthfulness as a witness or claimant. Also, all felony convictions are admissible. The judge will decide whether the conviction is old enough to be considered irrelevant or inadmissible.
How do you and your lawyer handle these issues?
If you are making a Florida injury, accident or medical malpractice claim, you have to be open and honest with your attorney from the outset. Tell her about these past issues. Your attorney will not judge you. Once your attorney knows about these things, she can do things to protect you.
The insurance defense attorney or insurance adjuster would like a jury to hold past criminal convictions against the person who was injured in an accident. Their hope would be that a jury is going to make the claimant pay a second time for their past issues. Their hope is that somebody on the jury will take the position that they do not deserve money because they have been “a bad person” in the past. However, if this information is handled correctly from the outset, it shouldn't negatively impact recovery.
If you have any questions about a Florida accident or medical malpractice case, call Dr. Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD at (352) 267-9168 or fill out the Internet consultation form on the right hand side of the screen.