Getting in a car accident is never a good thing, but it can get drastically more complicated if there are passengers in the car when it happens.
Not only are you worried about your own injuries, seeking medical attention, and if the accident is bad enough, filing a lawsuit, but you also have to worry about the wellbeing of your passenger.
If you’re the victim in an accident and your passenger is also seriously hurt, you may think that you are on the same side of a lawsuit, both being in the car that wasn’t at fault.
It’s important to know that this isn’t always the case.
Potential Conflicts in a Personal Injury Case
There are many variables at play that can make it difficult, if not impossible, to have the same lawyer representing you. You may also be on opposite ends of a lawsuit.
If you believe you are the victim in an accident and that you and your passenger will be on the same side, you may not know that there are instances where you may be at least partially at-fault as the driver.
This creates a messy situation where the insurance company may have a conflict of interest representing both of you.
A lawyer may also have a conflict of interest representing you both in the case.
You may even deal with a conflict of interest finding a lawyer if your chosen lawyer has previously represented the at-fault driver.
Let’s break these situations down a little bit more so they make more sense.
Insurance Company Conflicts of Interest
Insurance companies have a duty of loyalty to fairly serve those who hold a policy with them.
This duty becomes muddied when multiple parties in an accident have the same insurance carrier.
If the at-fault driver has the same insurance carrier as you, the resulting case is essentially the insurance company having to make a settlement on a policy against itself.
As a result, the insurance company will need to hire two separate lawyers to represent each policy as a different client, therefore alleviating the conflict of interest and making sure a fair settlement is given to the victim.
If you, as the driver of the host vehicle, have the same insurance as your passenger, the same will need to occur. The insurance company will need to hire separate lawyers for each policy to fairly represent all parties and not breach their duty of loyalty.
Alternatively, if your passenger is your dependent, none of the above should apply as you will all be covered under the same policy. Also, if you are at no fault in the accident, your policy will likely cover your passengers’ needs under the bodily injury liability portion of the policy.
Possible Lawyer Conflicts of Interest
Not only do you need to worry about the conflict of interest with insurance companies, but there is also a possible conflict of interest with lawyers.
It’s obvious that the same lawyer cannot represent you and the driver of the other vehicle. Lawyers need to practice the same duty of loyalty that insurance companies do and avoid these conflicts of interest to get the best result for their clients.
If you are seen as even partially at fault, it may also be difficult for the same lawyer to represent you and your passenger.
Your passenger may be placing some blame for their injuries on you, and thus a lawyer cannot represent both of those interests.
If the other driver is at fault, you and your passenger may seek to hire the same lawyer, but would need to sign an informed consent for dual representation. This means you both acknowledge you are being represented by the same lawyer in this case.
When in doubt, each person should retain their own attorney.
Lastly, a lawyer’s duty of loyalty not only extends to people they may represent in the current case but in past cases as well.
If anyone involved has been a past client of the lawyer you are seeking to hire, conflicts of interest may still arise as that duty of loyalty may still belong to the past client.
Contact VanDerGinst Law
At VanDerGinst Law, our goal is to fairly represent all clients that hire us.
It is an important part of our process to complete a conflict of interest check before agreeing to proceed as your attorney.
Contact us for a free consultation and you don’t need to worry about whether a conflict of interest will arise during your case because you can be sure we will do our due diligence.
We even take this a step further by never working for insurance companies. We only work for accident victims, meaning that there isn’t a conflict of interest when fighting for you against insurance companies.
If you find yourself in a car accident with a passenger on board, we would be happy to discuss the situation with you.
The law is tough and being injured is tougher. We’ll make it easier for you.
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The information contained on this website is presented by VanDerGinst Law P.C. It is not intended nor should it be construed as professional legal advice. The information is general in nature about the Firm, the scope of services we offer, and our community outreach, it is not legal advice. Please contact us by phone, email, mail, or via this website for inquiries. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding your situation. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Iowa and/or the State of Illinois.