When another party causes an accident or personal injury in Missouri, the victim can sue that party for economic and non-economic damages. Damages are the financial losses, pain, and suffering that you experience because of a personal injury or accident.

When you hire a St. Louis personal injury lawyer, you might wonder if what you tell the attorney is private and confidential. Disclosing sensitive information about how an injury impacts your life can make some individuals anxious. However, attorney-client privilege may ease their minds because it protects the communications between clients and their attorneys from being disclosed under most circumstances.

What Is Privilege?

Privilege refers to evidence that cannot be disclosed. It is not subject to discovery or disclosure and cannot be compelled through testimony. The attorney-client privilege protects the confidential communications between a client and their attorney. It includes information disclosed through conversations between the client and attorney but also extends to emails, text messages, written correspondence, and other forms of communication.

An attorney cannot be compelled to testify or disclose the information during a deposition, in court, or through a subpoena. The privilege belongs to the client. Therefore, the client would need to waive the privilege for the attorney to disclose privileged information.

It is important to note that privilege is not absolute. Several exceptions allow privileged information to be disclosed under specific circumstances.

What Are the Rules for Confidentiality of Information in Missouri?

According to Rule 4-1.6 of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney cannot reveal information related to representing a client unless:

  • The client gives informed consent for the attorney to disclose the information;
  • The disclosure is permitted by Rule 4-1.6(b); or,
  • The disclosure is impliedly authorized for the attorney to perform their duties to represent the client.

The circumstances under Rule 4-1.6(b) wherein an attorney may reveal confidential information related to a client include:

  • To prevent substantial bodily harm or death that is reasonably certain to happen;
  • To obtain legal advice about the attorney’s compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct;
  • To comply with a court order or other law;
  • To resolve or detect conflicts of interest because of the attorney’s chance of employment or changes in the firm’s ownership only if revealing the information would not otherwise compromise the attorney-client privilege or prejudice the client;
  • To establish a defense or claim by the attorney in a controversy between the client and the attorney;
  • To establish a defense to a civil claim or criminal charge against the attorney based on a client’s conduct; or,
  • To respond to allegations in a proceeding about the attorneys’ representation of the client.

Lawyers have a duty to make reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertently disclosing privileged information. They must take steps to prevent the unauthorized access to or disclosure of information related to the client’s representation.

Are There Exceptions to the Attorney-Client Privilege in Missouri?

In addition to the above rules, there are circumstances in which an attorney may be compelled to disclose information that the attorney-client privilege would ordinarily protect. 

Exceptions to the attorney-client privilege may apply when:

  • The client has died, and their heirs are suing each other over the client’s probate estate;
  • The client gives the attorney permission to disclose information the client provides regarding their intimate relationship with their spouse for a loss of consortium claim;
  • A prisoner asks for legal advice from a lawyer in furtherance of terrorist acts;
  • A client asks an attorney for legal advice to help them commit a crime, and,
  • A client sues another client over a matter the attorney handled for both clients.

Some information between the attorney and the client is not privileged. For example, factual information that another party could verify would not be privileged information. Information discussed in public or through public means would not be privileged.

When Does the Attorney-Client Privilege Attach?

Generally, attorney-client privilege attaches if the following conditions are met:

  • The disclosures and communication were between the client and the attorney;
  • The purpose of disclosing the information was for the client to obtain legal advice from the attorney;
  • When receiving the information from the client, the attorney was acting within their professional capacity, and,
  • The client reasonably expected the information they provided would be held in confidence by the attorney.

There must be an attorney-client relationship that establishes a duty of care for the privilege to apply. In other words, an attorney answering a general question asked at a luncheon might not be bound by attorney-client privilege.

Does Attorney-Client Privilege Apply During a Free Consultation With a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer?

Generally, signing a retainer agreement establishes an attorney-client relationship. The client has hired an attorney to represent them regarding a car accident, slip and fall, or other personal injury matter. However, does privilege apply when someone discusses information with a personal injury lawyer during a free consultation?

Sources differ on the answer to this question. However, most free consultations are considered confidential. 

Information you disclose during a case evaluation is often confidential in the following instances: 

  • You schedule a free consultation for a workplace accident to obtain legal advice
  • You communicated directly with the attorney in a private setting
  • The attorney was acting within their professional capacity to provide advice about your legal options regarding the workplace accident 
  • You expected the information disclosed during the free consultation to remain private and confidential.

If you meet the above criteria, confidentiality will likely apply to your free consultation. However, if you are concerned about the information you may disclose while meeting with an attorney, ask the lawyer about the privilege before disclosing the information.

Why Is Attorney-Client Privilege Important for Personal Injury Cases in St. Louis, MO?

Attorney-client privilege encourages clients to be honest and forthcoming with their attorneys. 

Information you should disclose to your St. Louis personal injury lawyer includes, but is not limited to:

  • Pre-existing conditions and prior injuries and/or accidents
  • Whether the officer charged you with a crime or traffic violation related to your injury
  • You anticipate filing for divorce or bankruptcy during your personal injury case
  • All personal injury claims you have filed in the past
  • Whether you could be partially at fault for causing your injuries
  • Any new injuries or symptoms that arise during your case (also tell your doctor immediately)
  • Prior arrests or convictions for criminal offenses

Your attorney must have all the information to provide the best possible representation. Being honest with your personal injury lawyer maximizes the chance that you receive the compensation you deserve for a personal injury claim.

If you have questions about a personal injury case, talk with a St. Louis personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There are deadlines for filing claims and lawsuits. Furthermore, the sooner you hire an injury lawyer, the sooner you have someone on your side working to protect your best interests.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in St. Louis, MO

If you’ve been injured, please contact Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:

St. Louis, MO Law Office
1430 Washington Ave Ste 225, St. Louis, MO 63103
(314) 444-4444

Ladue, MO Law Office
9807 S 40 Dr, St. Louis, MO 63124

Columbia, MO Law Office
28 N 8th St # 502, Columbia, MO 65201

Creve Coeur, MO Law Office 
999 Executive Pkwy Dr #205, Creve Coeur, MO 63141