Work Product Immunity Laws and Personal Injury Claims
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What is Work Product Immunity in a Personal Injury Claim?
Generally speaking, work product immunity refers to the fact that the materials that are gathered in preparation for trial by an attorney are protected from discovery by the opposite party. In other words, if an attorney is preparing their work for an upcoming trial, they need not disclose such information to the other party if they have requested it through the discovery process or by subpoena.
What are Some Examples of information Protected by Work Product Immunity Laws?
In a personal injury claim, work product immunity usually covers such things as:
- Conversations between the client and attorney made in preparation for trial
- Conversations between the attorney and medical professionals, such as doctors, surgeons, nurses, etc., which are made in anticipation of trial
- Important documents related to the accident, such as police reports, traffic accident reports, hospital bills and receipts, to be used in the trial
Thus, the main point with work product immunity is that the protections only apply to material that has been gathered and prepared specifically for use in the upcoming trial. Work product immunity is also referred to as the work product privilege, the work product exemption, the work product rule, or the attorney work-product privilege.
When Does the Work Product Rule Not Apply?
There are some instances when information that would normally be protected under the work product rule can be requested by the opposing counsel. Normally protected material can be requested if:
- The party requesting the information has “substantial need” for the materials; AND
- The party cannot obtain equivalent materials by alternative means, without suffering undue hardship
Thus, if the opposing counsel can prove these two elements, they may be able to obtain personal injury information that is normally protected. For example, if there is no other way to obtain a hospital transcript without requesting it from the injured party’s attorney, the judge may grant an exception to the work product rule. This is largely up to the judge’s discretion, and so exceptions may vary from court to court.
What if I Have an Issue Regarding Work Product in my Personal Injury Claim?
Work product determinations and decisions are generally left to the expertise of a qualified personal injury lawyer. For example, a lawyer will be able to understand which types of personal injury evidence are protected during trial, and which evidence is not protected. However, it’s good for you to understand the basic idea of the work product doctrine, since it’s your information that’s in question.
If you encounter any issues regarding work product laws during a lawsuit, you should raise them immediately with your attorney. For example, if the opposing counsel has approached you outside of court requesting for information or documents, you should not disclose any information to them. Instead, you should alert your attorney to their requests, as the information requested is probably protected under work product laws.
Also, it’s a good idea to keep your lawyer informed of any communications you have had regarding your injuries, prior to trial. For example, you should disclose all interaction you’ve had with your doctor in relation to your injuries, to the best of your ability. The more material that your lawyer has to work with, the better it will be for the outcome of your claim.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Have Questions About Work Product Immunity Laws?
Work product immunity laws can make or break a personal injury lawsuit. When filing a personal injury claim in court, it is essential that you obtain the representation and advice of an experienced lawyer. Your attorney will be able to help prepare the evidence for use in the upcoming trial, and can help you resolve any issues you may have concerning work product immunity laws.
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Last Modified: 09-05-2012 03:19 PM PDT
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