Personal Injury Courtroom Confidential: What Lawyers Can’t Discuss

When it comes to personal injury law, there’s more to it than meets the eye. As attorneys, we are committed to advocating for our clients and seeking the justice they deserve. However, we must operate within the confines of the law and adhere to specific rules about what we can discuss in court. In this blog post, we’ll dive into some of these off-limits topics, shedding light on the intricacies of personal injury cases and the legal process.

Rules of Evidence and Procedure

The Basics

At the heart of any legal proceeding are the rules of evidence and procedure. These rules play a crucial role in ensuring that trials are fair and just for all parties involved. In personal injury cases, these rules dictate what information can be presented, how it can be presented, and how attorneys should conduct themselves in court.


One commonly misunderstood concept in the legal world is hearsay. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement made by someone other than the person testifying, which is offered as evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most cases, hearsay is inadmissible because it is considered unreliable and can’t be cross-examined. However, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule, such as excited utterances (statements made under the stress of an event) and statements against interest (statements admitting guilt or liability).

Character Evidence

Character evidence refers to information about a person’s character traits, which may be used to infer their behavior in a specific situation. Generally, character evidence is inadmissible in court because it can be prejudicial and distract the jury from the facts of the case. There are, however, limited circumstances under which character evidence may be admitted. For example, if a person’s character is directly relevant to the case, such as a history of violence in an assault case, it may be allowed.

Privileged Information

Personal Injury Courtroom Confidential: What Lawyers Can't Discuss

Attorney-Client Privilege

One of the cornerstones of the legal profession is the attorney-client privilege. This privilege exists to maintain trust between lawyers and their clients and to ensure that clients feel comfortable sharing all relevant information with their attorneys. As such, lawyers are prohibited from disclosing privileged information in court. Breaching this privilege can result in serious consequences for the attorney, including potential disbarment.

Medical Privilege

Another type of privilege in personal injury cases is medical privilege, which protects the privacy of a patient’s medical information. Generally, lawyers are not allowed to disclose privileged medical information in court. However, there are specific circumstances under which medical information may be disclosed, such as when the patient’s medical condition is at issue in the case or when the patient has waived the privilege.

The net result of this privilege in personal injury cases is in most cases the privilege will be considered waived, unless it’s of a condition that’s completely irrelevant to the lawsuit, and would be prejudicial if disclosed, such as unrelated drug addiction treatment or an abortion.

Settlement Negotiations

In many personal injury cases, parties may engage in settlement negotiations to resolve the matter without going to trial. Details of these negotiations, including offers, counteroffers, and concessions, are generally not admissible in court. This rule exists to encourage parties to engage in open and honest settlement discussions without fear that their statements could later be used against them in court.

Insurance Coverage

Information about a defendant’s insurance coverage is generally considered off-limits in court. The rationale behind this rule is to prevent juries from being swayed by the defendant’s ability to pay damages. By keeping insurance coverage information out of the courtroom, the focus remains on the facts of the case and the plaintiff’s injuries, rather than on the defendant’s financial resources.

Speculative Damages

Speculative damages are those that cannot be proven with certainty or are based on conjecture. In personal injury cases, lawyers are not allowed to discuss speculative damages in court. Instead, they must present evidence of actual, non-speculative damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Frequently Asked Questions

Personal Injury Courtroom Confidential: What Lawyers Can't Discuss

Why are there rules about what can be discussed in court?

Rules about what can be discussed in court help ensure a fair and just legal process for all parties involved. They prevent irrelevant or prejudicial information from influencing the jury and help maintain the integrity of the trial.

Can the rules about what can be discussed in court ever change?

Yes, the rules of evidence and procedure can change over time, often in response to new legal developments or public policy considerations. Courts and legislators periodically review and update these rules to reflect evolving legal principles and societal values.

What happens if a lawyer discusses a prohibited topic in court?

If a lawyer discusses a prohibited topic in court, the opposing counsel can object, and the judge will decide whether the information should be allowed or excluded. If the judge determines that the information is inadmissible, they may instruct the jury to disregard the statement or, in extreme cases, declare a mistrial. The lawyer who violated the rule may also face disciplinary consequences, including sanctions or even disbarment.

Can a lawyer discuss privileged information if the client gives permission?

If a client gives permission for their attorney to disclose privileged information, the privilege may be considered waived, and the lawyer may be allowed to discuss the information in court. However, attorneys should exercise caution and ensure that the client fully understands the implications of waiving privilege before proceeding.

Are there any situations where information about insurance coverage is allowed in court?

While information about insurance coverage is generally not admissible in court, there are some exceptions. For example, if the insurance policy itself is the subject of the lawsuit, such as in a bad faith claim against an insurer, the coverage details may be relevant and admissible. Additionally, if a defendant makes a false statement about their insurance coverage during the trial, the plaintiff’s attorney may be allowed to introduce evidence to contradict the false statement.

Personal Injury Courtroom Confidential: What Lawyers Can't Discuss

As personal injury attorneys, we are dedicated to upholding the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct. Adhering to the rules regarding what can and cannot be discussed in court is an essential part of ensuring a fair and just legal process for all parties involved. If you have questions about your personal injury case or need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm. We’re here to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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$3.025 Million settlement by Mark R. Melrose and co-counsel in a medical malpractice case for 40 year old man who suffered a devastating stroke after his surgeon failed to diagnose the cause of his bowel infarction. The doctor failed to read the echocardiogram which had clear evidence of a blood clot. This clot then broke apart and caused the stroke.

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