When One Attorney Represents Multiple People Injured in The Same Accident

Posted on August 12, 2020Posted By Russell & Hill, PLLCPosted In Car Accident

Russell & Hill, PLLC, like all personal injury and auto accident lawyers, is required by law to do and not do certain things when they meet more than one person seeking legal advice arising out of the same situation, such as people involved in the same automobile accident.  One obligation of a lawyer is to disclose possible conflicts that may arise between the potential or current clients and let each client decide whether he or she will accept the possibility and risks of the potential conflict. If they do, then the lawyer is permitted to work for more than one client.  If not, then the lawyer may work for only one client, and may sometimes be ineligible to work for either of them.

The potential conflict between the claims of two or more clients. The insurance of drivers is typically structured in a way commonly called split limits.  That means the policy has a “per-person” limit for payment of bodily injury claims made against its customer, and a larger “per-accident” limit for all bodily injury claims made against its customer from one event.  That means that the insurance company never has to pay more than a “per-person” limit to anyone injured person, no matter how bad the injury.  It also means that the insurance company never has to pay more than the “per-accident” limit, no matter how many people are injured.  In Washington State, the minimum policy issued has limits of “25/50/10” that means the company has no duty to pay more than $25,000 for bodily injury to any one person, no more than $50,000 for bodily injury to all claimants combined, and no more than $10,000 for property damage caused by the customer.

This becomes relevant when more than two or more people are injured by only one negligent driver, for example, when one negligent driver strikes the rear of one stopped vehicle and forces that vehicle to collide into a third vehicle ahead of it.  If none of the three drivers had a passenger, then there is no problem because only the two victim-drivers have claims against the one negligent driver.  But if any of the three cars had a passenger, there is a potential problem.  That means it is theoretically possible that each victim could conceivably wind up “competing” with one another for some of the insurance money.  Whether this would ever become an actual problem depends upon the amount of insurance that was purchased by the negligent driver.

Clients understand that one lawyer is obligated to evaluate each client’s claim separately. The difference in the claim values may be minor, but if major, could produce significant differences in the financial outcomes.  This is not uncommon, and as long as each client agrees to one lawyer advising on both claims, a lawyer may do this.

The Attorneys at Russell & Hill, PLLC, work hard to get their clients the best possible settlement when people are injured in auto accidents in Everett, Spokane, Portland, and throughout the Pacific Northwest. If you feel like your attorney has a conflict or is not working hard for you, contact Russell & Hill, PLLC. They offer a free consultation and will guide you with the best possible legal advice.

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