Lawyers have a duty to their clients if both clients decide to file a claim against each other. When this situation happens when there is a conflict of interest that arises. However, what is a conflict of interest in a case? We’ll be breaking what it means and how it may affect the outcome of a case.
Are There Laws For Conflict Of Interest?
What is a conflict of interest in a case? To put it simply, a lawyer has a duty to represent more than one person or organization within a case. However, the lawyer cannot seek justice for both parties since they may have different interests that are against each other. A Personal Injury Lawyer in Las Vegas understands these rules and helps their client in every way possible when taking on a case.
Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct prevent a lawyer from representing a client if such representation involves the lawyer asserting a claim by one client against another client that the lawyer also represents in the same proceeding.
Hypothetical Situation For Conflict Of Interest
Now that you understand what is a conflict of interest in a case, here’s a hypothetical situation on how it can happen. Two clients – a driver and her passenger – approach an Automotive Accident Lawyer in Las Vegas after they’ve been injured in an automobile accident. Both honestly tell the lawyer the other driver hit their vehicle, and they agree to represent them jointly. After an investigation, however, the lawyer finds out their driver-client was at fault.
In order to effectively represent the passenger-client, the lawyer needs to file a claim against the driver’s own auto insurance policy. The driver and passenger’s interests are not aligned, and now the lawyer has a potential conflict of interest on their hands.
A Lawyer’s Duty To Their Client
NRPC also provides lawyers owe a duty of loyalty to former clients. Generally, a lawyer cannot represent a client in the same or substantially related matter as that of their former client, providing both their current client and former clients’ interests are adverse.
In our facts, if the lawyer already met with the driver-client and decided to sign her up, she’s a client. If they decide to withdraw representation, she’s now a former client, and they owe her a duty of loyalty. Ethical rules require lawyers to withdraw from the representation of the passenger unless the driver-client gives her informed, written consent.
How A Lawyer Handles Conflict Of Interest
So, what should a lawyer do? First, a lawyer should abstain from consulting with the prospective driver-client and should consult only with the prospective passenger-client. After consultation, the lawyer should thoroughly investigate the accident to make sure the driver is not at fault.
If the lawyer reasonably concludes the driver is not at fault, the lawyer can consult with the driver and potentially proceed with the joint representation. However, if the lawyer concludes the driver is or may be at fault, the lawyer can protect both clients’ interests by retaining only the fault-free passenger and referring the driver to outside counsel.
The Car Accident Lawyer in Las Vegas does everything possible to help their clients when agreeing to represent a client.
Can There Be Two Conflict Of Interest Situations?
Even if the client-driver is not deemed liable, a secondary conflict of interest between two (or more) clients may arise if settlement funds are limited. This conflict typically arises when a third-party insurer issues a pro-rata settlement because there isn’t enough coverage from the third-party driver’s policy to fully compensate each of the clients.
This happens when either the clients’ individual underinsured motorist policies insufficiently compensate them, or – even worse – the clients do not have underinsured motorist coverage.
What To Do In Settlement Disputes
If a lawyer’s clients disagree over who gets what and they are unable to facilitate a resolution, they may have no choice but to end joint representation. The best practice here is to advise both clients at the outset that this disagreement is inherently possible should they opt for joint representation and present them with a written waiver acknowledging and waiving the potential conflict.