What happens when more than one family member gets injured in the same car accident? Can you each have the same lawyer?
You and your family member both receive injuries in an auto accident. Can the same attorney represent both of you? Most likely, yes. But, some exceptions exist. Check out why and what they could be.
The Biggest Problem: A Conflict of Interest
Legally, a “conflict of interest” happens when a lawyer represents one client, but that could harm the interests of another client. It could happen in a car accident case where either you or your family member had partial fault for your injuries.
Another situation where this could happen is when not enough money’s available to compensate both you and your family member for your injuries.
For example, if the vehicle that caused the accident had 2 passengers in it that were also injured and only $60,000 was available to compensate all injured parties an attorney could be forced into a situation where they would have to “Rob Peter to Pay Paul.”
What Happens When You Have Partial Fault?
Let’s say your accident happened when you hit another car in an intersection. Both of you tried to run a red light.
Now, this puts your lawyer in a bit of a jam. The passenger in your vehicle clearly had no fault, so they have a claim against the other driver. But, they also possibly have a claim against you, depending on what the evidence of your case reveals.
Technically, you and your family member could sign a potential conflict of interest waiver. But almost every lawyer advises that you and your family member simply get different lawyers because a strong likelihood would exist that an actual conflict of interest could arise during the course of the representation.
What if the Defendant Likely Doesn’t Have Enough Money?
Let’s say you are in a pretty serious accident. The other driver has $50,000 / $100,000 in coverage. If you and your family member were the only ones injured and both had cases deserving of the $50,000.00 per person limit no conflict would exist.
What would happen, however, if the at-fault motorist had a passenger in his or her vehicle that was also seriously injured? Now the $100,000.00 per accident policy limit would have to be divided among 3 claimants.
When this situation arises, your lawyer has to allow another attorney to represent either you or your family member and could also be barred from continuing to represent the other party.
So yes, in most cases a Personal injury attorney will choose to represent both you and your family member. Just be prepared in case one of these “conflicts of interest” exceptions comes up.
And remember, the counselor is just trying to do the right thing for all parties involved if they choose to send either you or your family member to another lawyer.
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Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years. Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.