Most of the time, there is no problem. But the lawyer always has to pay attention, to make sure that when he is doing something for one client, he doesn’t hurt the other one.
Here are some examples:
1) When the driver may have done something wrong, and suit will have to be filed.
Under Ohio law, liability for an accident is apportioned among the people at fault – which is a fancy way of saying that if two drivers are accused of causing an accident, the jury will decide how the damages are to be apportioned between the two drivers.
If a speeding car is hit by a car that is coming out from a stop sign, each driver is arguably responsible for part of the passenger’s injuries. If I represent a passenger of either driver, I have to sue both drivers – or my client may not be able to get everything she is entitled to.
And I can’t sue someone who I represent.
There are ways around this.
I can settle the passenger’s claim first, and then represent the driver. Or the passenger and driver may be able to each sign a written waiver of the conflict of interest (I don’t like this for several reasons.)
Or I may try to get another lawyer to represent either the passenger or the driver.
2) When there’s not enough insurance or other assets to take care of both the passenger and the driver, and both clients have to be paid out of a common fund.
If the passenger has a $80,000.00 injury, and the driver has a $60,000.00 injury, but the bad guy only has $100,000.00 in coverage and an underwater mortgage on his house, there is arguably a conflict over who should get paid first.
A section of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Ohio attorneys has procedures for addressing this situation: under the rules, the lawyer either asks the court to approve the settlement, or gives each client a series of precautionary warnings, including advising each client that they have the right to hire another attorney.
3) One of the clients is going to say something bad about the other, that is material.
Maybe the passenger knows that the driver is an alcoholic, or a chronic absentee from work, or was complaining about an injury to his leg the morning before the accident.
If there is any possibility that the insurance company may subpoena one client to testify against the other, the lawyer cannot effectively cross examine his own client.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Under most circumstances, a lawyer cannot sue his client, or do anything adverse to his client. If you have a personal injury case in Cincinnati, Ohio or if you want to know what your lawsuit is worth, talk with an experienced Cincinnati injury lawyer> about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed. All discussions are limited to Ohio law unless otherwise indicated. And past performance cannot be used to predict future results.