The Fifth Amendment applies when you're making a statement that could incriminate you in a criminal offense. Does it apply to a civil case? It can - if there is potential criminal liability and there are admissions to that crime.
Yes, a person has the right to proceed pro per, but if the issues are beyond your knowledge, skill and are potentially harmful to your position (either criminally or civilly), it's time for a lawyer.
The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case.
The assertion of the right to be free from compelled self-incrimination may be made in the context of civil litigation.
But the assertion can be costly.
Courts have held that refusing to answer in the civil context can be disciplined under rules of civil procedure as a failure to cooperate in discovery. Disciplines under the rules can include an award of costs/fees, and can include instructions to a jury that they may presume that the answer to the question refused would be unfavorable to the party asserting the right.
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The Fifth Amendment protects your right to refuse to answer any question, including an interrogatory, which may implicate your guilt in a criminal matter. The right to avoid self-incrimination is a fundamental right that must be respected regardless of whether or not the question arises in a civil trial. However, as some of the attorneys here have mentioned, the practical result of pleading the fifth is different in a civil trial than it would be in a criminal proceeding. In some cases, a civil jury can take the fact that you plead the fifth into account in determining liability. Moreover, frivolous uses of the Fifth Amendment in response to interrogatories can result in claims that you are abusing the discovery process.
The Fifth Amendment does not apply to civil actions, especially if the person "taking the Fifth" is the Plaintiff. By filing a lawsuit, the Plaintiff is exposing himself to the discovery process, including deposition.
ALSO, the Fifth Amendment is meant to protect citizens from self-incrimination as against "state action". If there is no "state action" there is nothing to be protected from.
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