I had an accident where a big rig truck struck me, we are trying to settle out of court but now they say my past criminal offence could hurt my case. Can my criminal past hurt my case?
Yes. If its within the last ten years and is a felony or crime involving dishonesty. Jurors are not generous with money if they think you are a criminal. Hopefully you have a lawyer to minimize the effect of your criminal history. If you are trying to settle this on your own, STOP. Get a lawyer. If you have any more questions let me know.
If you have a prior conviction for any crime of dishonesty (e.g. Writing a bad check) or ANY felony conviction, that conviction can and will be introduced in any court proceeding and possibly any deposition because it attacks your character as a truthful person.
You have no idea what you are up against. Whether your injury is minor or very severe, trucks carry multimillion dollar policies and rarely allow accidents to be handled by an adjuster without a local law firm getting involved. All of this is to say that commercial truck policies are defended far more aggressively than any of the major auto insurance companies because there is, potentially, so much more exposure.
The only guarantee that you can be given is that without experienced personal injury counsel that is specifically experienced in handling trucking accidents, you will end up with less money in your pocket and more headaches without professional representation.
The general rule is that convictions for felonies and misdemeanors involving moral turpitude within the past 10 years are admissible to impeach your character. Moral turpitude means any crime that involves lying, cheating, stealing or an assault against a female. There are sometimes exceptions both ways-- i.e. older convictions may be allowed into evidence or 9 year old ones might get excluded, but that's the general rule.
Credibility of the witness is allows relevant. Thus some convictions or pleas of guilty are admissible. When you say "we" are you referring to your attorney? It is best to consult with him/her about your entire record and the possible harm it could cause if you go to trial. As the others have stated defendants will not hesitate to use or try to use your past deeds against you. So be prepared to address your past.
Do not let this detour you from seeking justice.
I depends on what the past criminal history is, and frankly, how likeable you are. While felony convictions involving dishonesty are admissible, it doesn't necessarily mean it will hurt your case. A good personal injury attorney can minimize the impact of a felony conviction by stressing how long ago it was, the path to rehabilitation, the good deeds done afterward, etc etc. And if a jury likes you, they aren't going to care about it. So, of course the insurance company will tell you that a criminal past will hurt your case, that's their job. Depending on what it is, is MAY affect the value of your case, but frankly, I wouldn't deduct more than 10% of the total value of the case for it.
Can you tell us the nature of your injuries? If you have injuries of any significance, you should not try to settle this claim on your own - you should consult with a lawyer. As for your criminal history, it depends on the details of that - the timing and the offenses. To research more about trucking accident issues, visit our website at:
Let us know if you have any more questions, and one of our Board Certified Houston injury lawyers will be glad to assist.
To directly answer your specific question: maybe your criminal history could hurt you, but probably not. There is a statute in the Texas Rules of Evidence that says what types of convictions generally are (and are not) admissible to "impeach the credibility" of a witness. In other words, evidence of certain convictions may be admissible at trial to attack the credibility of a witness. But...your particular offense may or may not fall within the statute: depends on the type of offense and conviction date. Beyond that, there are other considerations...if suit were filed on your case, and your case went to trial, the Judge may be persuaded that your offense is too prejudicial and should not be allowed into evidence.
Going beyond your immediate question: there's nothing wrong with trying to settle your claim out of court, or without a lawyer, but in my general experience people fare much, much better when they are represented by a qualified, competent, personal injury attorney. That is not a sales pitch, it is the simple truth. Your question about your prior conviction is just one example of the 18-wheeler's insurance company telling you something about your case, and you're not sure whether what they are telling you is correct. Trust me: they will tell you a lot of other things you'll wonder about too.
The majority of personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. You can sit down with one or more board certified personal injury attorneys for an assessment of your claim, pay nothing, and there's no obligation to hire the attorney. I think that would be a really good thing for you to do before having any more conversation with the 18-wheeler's insurance company.
You have not told us what your criminal past is, so it is not possible to answer your question. If you have been convicted of perjury, forgery or a felony, it may have serious consequences if it is admissible. You need to speak with your attorney and disclose everything to your attorney so your past can be properly assessed as to how it may adversely affect your bodily injury claim.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
You have received good answers from the other attorneys on this issue. One additional comment is that regardless of whether the offense occurred within 10 years, the court still must make a determination of whether the probative value of admitting the conviction outweighs its prejudicial effect to you. Texas Rule of Evidence, Rule 609 (a). I think as a general rule if you have an offense that is admissible then the judge will likely let it come in because it bears on your credibility as a witness. If you have not done so, please immediately hire an attorney who is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board Of Legal Specialization. Good luck. www.urhurt.com
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