The same injury lawyer can usually represent two (or more) people were injured in the same accident, unless the lawyer may have a conflict of interest in representing both of them, which means there could have ethical problems involved. Let us look at the conflict of interest in connection with such dual representation in a personal injury case.
If a lawyer representing or two people injured in the accident as well, a conflict of interest may arise if one of these people may be considered wrongful, even partially, for the underlying accident.
What is a conflict of interest?
In the practice of law, one of the most common ways that may occur a “conflict of interest” is when a lawyer by agreeing to represent a client, may damage the interests of another client. If a lawyer representing or two people injured in the accident as well, a conflict of interest may arise if one of these people may be considered wrongful, even partially, for the underlying accident (think of a crash car title example of where possible). A second type of conflict of interest may arise if there is a limited quantity of product available to pay the claims of two guests (or more) who were in the accident.
Let’s delve a little deeper into these two types of conflicts of interest.
When a client may be at fault
Let’s say you and your friend(s) are the passengers in a car that was hit by someone else. It is an easy matter. The two of you have potential claims against the driver of the car that you were in and against the driver of the other car and none of you can be considered at fault. There is no question of having the same lawyer represent both of you.
Now let’s say you are driving and your friend is a passenger in the vehicle, who is affected by someone else. If, for example, your car is stationary at a red light and you are rear ended, it is still problematic for counsel from an ethical point of view. The accident almost certainly fault of the other car, so you can have the same lawyer.
But what happens if you collide at an intersection? Now, the crash may be your fault. In this case, you would have a claim only against the other driver, but your friend would have a claim not only against the other driver, but also potentially against you, depending on what the evidence shows the cause of the accident . So it would probably be considered unethical for a lawyer to represent both you and your friend. Theoretically, your friend could sign a waiver of any recourse against you and you two could sign the waiver of any conflict of interest, but that’s probably pushing it. (More personal injury claim and do not do.) Most lawyers would say the two friends should get separate lawyers.
When there is limited restitution available
Often this situation arises when the defendant, which is clearly wrong, has a limited amount of insurance. Let’s say you are driving and two of your friends are passengers. You wait at a red light when you get hit pretty hard. This is obviously fault of the other driver. All three of you suffer major injuries, such that each of your case may be worth $ 50,000, but the defendant has only $ 50,000 in car insurance coverage. What is happening in this situation?
Here the conflict of interest is that each of wounded people want as much as he or she can get the limited insurance policy to cover the damage. Theoretically, each of the plaintiffs could just distribute the policy of $ 50,000 equal shares or in other agreed in the way. And if the plaintiffs agree on how the policy should be split, there is probably no conflict of interest.
But what happens if they do not want distributed equally to insurance proceeds? In this situation, it would be impossible for the same lawyer to continue representing all three of those injured. The lawyer would have to withdraw from the case, and all three will have to find new lawyers.