No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. – Luke 16:13
The question really is whether an attorney should represent a driver and passenger in the same case. The answer really lies in the specific situation.
An attorney must zealously represent the client within the bounds of the law. If an attorney feels as if he cannot do so, then the attorney should decline the representation.
A difficult circumstance can arise when an attorney chooses to represent two clients in the same case. Let’s take an auto accident for instance.
Let’s say you are a passenger in an accident. You and your driver both believe the other driver is at fault. Both of you are injured in the accident.
You both (wisely) decide to hire an auto accident attorney who represents clients injured in auto accidents. However, you both consult with and visit the same attorney. The attorney decides to accept both of you as clients.
At first, you think this is a good idea from a convenience standpoint. But trouble may be brewing around the corner.
Is Fault Clear?
When fault is clear, this arrangement might not pose a problem. For instance, if this was a rear-end collision and the other driver is not disputing fault, then a problem may not arise.
But one thing I have learned in the law is there is no such thing as a “cut and dry” case. I have seen fault become an issue in almost every auto accident trial I’ve ever handled. Even in rear-end collision cases.
Once fault becomes disputed, then there is a problem with the dual representation. Here’s why….
When fault is disputed, the jury might believe that both parties are at fault. If that is the case, then the jury has the opportunity to determine the percentage of fault attributable to both drivers. This is called comparative negligence.
If you’re the passenger in this situation, you may find yourself holding the bag on some of your recovery. If the jury finds the other driver 80% at fault, and your driver 20% at fault, then your recovery as a passenger may be reduced by 20%.
When you and your driver are represented by the same attorney, then you are deprived of the opportunity to seek full recovery from all responsible parties.
Once there is a foreseeable chance that this may happen, then there is a potential “conflict of interest” between two clients who have the same attorney.
Where Does this Leave You?
If a conflict of interest arises between two clients, then the attorney must withdraw from the representation for both clients. In this circumstance, the clients would be left to find another attorney. Not only does this cause a delay, but it might be especially hard for the driver to find an attorney if evidence surfaces showing liability on him.
You as the passenger will also have to find a new attorney. Depending on your case, that might also pose a problem. Most attorneys do not like to take over cases because there are too many “unknowns.”
How to Avoid This.
Be cautious. Get your own lawyer and encourage your driver to do the same. It’s nothing personal. You just cannot predict what the other driver is going to say if your case goes to trial.
Very rarely is liability clearly established in court cases. I have never seen a driver come to court and admit fault. Even in a simple rear-end accident, they always make some sort of excuse. Furthermore, juries are inherently unpredictable.
To protect yourself, make sure your attorney is only looking out for your best interest. That’s the only way you can properly avoid this situation.
Should an Attorney Accept Both Clients?
I make it a point in my practice to avoid representing a driver and passenger in the same accident. I do not want to find myself in a position of having to drop a case after spending so much time and money on it.
A responsible attorney will avoid this situation too. Unfortunately, there are too many attorneys that look at the prospect of dollar signs rather than the best interests of their clients. By doing this, the attorney not only risks disrupting the client’s claim, but can also land the attorney in trouble.
So, if your attorney is not thinking about all the potential risks, you should. After all, it is your case and not the attorney’s.
There are many auto accident attorneys in Dallas. Pick one that has your best interests at heart.