Car accidents usually involve multiple vehicles, drivers, and passengers. It may seem reasonable for multiple people to use one lawyer if they were all in the same vehicle. However, having one lawyer represent both the driver and the passenger may create a conflict of interest. In some cases, working with a car accident lawyer one-on-one can help better protect your rights after a car accident.

Can Two People Have the Same Lawyer?

South Carolina follows the legal doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which creates a 51% threshold for recovery. This means compensation is only possible if your liability for an accident is 50% or less.  South Carolina Code § 15-38-15, makes it clear that as long as the plaintiff is less than 51% responsible for an accident, he or she will be eligible for financial recovery from the defendant. The courts will reduce a monetary award to a Plaintiff by the Plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

Comparative fault law also applies to multiple parties. For instance, in a car accident with two cars, one driver may be at fault for 70% of the accident. The second driver, carrying a passenger, might be 30% at fault for the collision. In this scenario, the passenger must recover 30% of their damages from the driver of their vehicle and 70% from the other party, filing a claim against all drivers involved.

When this happens, a potential conflict of interest may arise if the same lawyer represents a passenger and their driver. That said, a passenger should ordinarily avoid hiring the same attorney as the driver of the vehicle the passenger is riding in if the driver clearly shares some degree of fault in causing the collision.

South Carolina’s Rules of Professional Conduct Limits Current Clients

A South Carolina car accident attorney can represent multiple clients when there are no conflicts of interest. According to South Carolina’s rules of professional conduct, if a concurrent conflict of interest exists, an attorney must not work for more than one client.

One of two factors figures into a concurrent conflict of interest:

  • When to successfully represent one client well would be bad for another client’s case
  • When a lawyer’s representation of multiple clients will be materially limited by the attorney’s interests or by the interests of another client, former client, or third person

What does it mean when a lawyer has a conflict of interest?

Lawyers must maintain independent judgment and loyalty in their relationships with their clients. Therefore, they cannot divide their loyalties among many clients who have conflicts of interest.

The lawyer is responsible for identifying the clients and determining whether there is a conflict of interest between clients. If the clients have opposing interests, then loyalty to any of them affects the case’s outcome.

How can a conflict of interest affect my case?

A client whose interests conflict with another may feel deceived, and the damage to the lawyer-client relationship may be irreversible. The client might fear that the lawyer’s representation will be materially limited because the lawyer represents another client who has an opposing interest in their case.

A conflict may arise because there is a significant difference between the clients’ testimonies or because they have significantly different settlement options. A direct conflict may result if the lawyer calls a client as a witness in a trial for another client involved in the same case.

Car Accident Lawyers for Families

Having one car accident attorney represent many clients makes sense in some circumstances. For instance, a lawyer can represent your entire family for a car crash if the other driver is at fault. A minor child will need legal representation to pursue a third-party claim against the liable driver. If a car accident causes injuries to you and your spouse, it may make more sense to work with one attorney to represent both of your interests.

In South Carolina, the driver’s auto insurance policy covers everyone, including passengers. Your auto insurance policy may also help cover your injuries when you’re involved in an accident as a passenger. If your driver or the other driver at fault does not have sufficient auto insurance coverage, your uninsured or underinsured motorist policy may cover your injuries.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries as passengers in a car and the medical bills exceeded your policy limits, you may file a third-party claim against the negligent driver who was operating the vehicle you were in.

Request a Free Consultation with Joye Law Firm

The best way to protect the rights of everyone involved in an, including passengers, is to work with an ethical and experienced attorney. An auto accident lawyer from Joye Law Firm can answer your questions about all applicable insurance policies when you’re in an auto accident.

Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our lawyers.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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