Your Criminal Record isn’t Their Defense for Injuring You
NEW ORLEANS, LA — You’ve been seriously injured by another person’s negligence, and have had to file a lawsuit. Or maybe you’re just starting the claims process, and you believe you might be forced to file a lawsuit because the insurance company isn’t being fair with you. At some point in the litigation process, the insurance company’s lawyers are going to ask you if you’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. If the answer is yes, especially if you don’t have a lawyer to advise and protect you, admitting to past involvement with law enforcement might frighten you. It might even discourage you from pursuing a claim. You don’t want this past history coming out in civil court. You fear the insurance company’s lawyers will use this against you. You may even feel like having an arrest record somehow turns you from the victim of another person’s negligence into a guilty party. So, how concerned should you be about a past criminal history, if you’ve been injured by someone else?
The answer is complicated. While it may seem unfair that having a criminal record could affect your pursuit of justice, insurance companies have a right to investigate claims to discover any potential fraud. Also, under certain circumstances, a past criminal history can be used against you in court, if that history demonstrates that you’ve been a dishonest person. However, when an insurance company asks if you’ve “ever been arrested,” they’re fishing for information that can’t necessarily be used against you.
Louisiana law wisely attempts to balance the right of injured parties not to have past transgressions held against them, with the right of insurance companies to protect themselves against fraudulent or dishonest claimants. Louisiana Code of Evidence Article 609 allows defendants to attack a plaintiff’s credibility only by revealing to a jury the name of the crime you have been convicted of, and only then if it involves “dishonesty or false statement,” or if it is punishable by death or more than six months in prison if a judge feels that this information’s importance to the case outweighs the prejudice such a revelation will create against you. And in both cases, if it’s been more than ten years since your conviction date, or if you were later pardoned or the judgment annulled, then it isn’t admissible. Juvenile judgments are generally not admissible, either.
Despite the requests for disclosure that the defendants will make from you or your attorney, a record of arrests, indictments, and prosecution can’t be used to attack your credibility at all. From the perspective of a person protecting a plaintiff’s rights, the defense, when asking if you’ve ever been arrested, is throwing a wide net in hopes of catching some foolish fish!
If you’ve been convicted of a crime that can be used against you, you still shouldn’t fear pursuing your claim. People who make mistakes get injured too. If justice is to truly be blind, we must fully examine the merits of each case. We must recognize that having a past conviction isn’t a defense for someone to hurt you. If you’ve been the victim of someone else’s negligence, don’t let a past criminal record stop you from seeking justice. Call the experienced attorneys at The de Boisblanc Law Firm today!
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