Before, or shortly after, attorneys agree to represent clients in their auto accident cases, they'll make sure there aren't any conflicts of interest in their personal or professional lives that could interfere with their ability to provide clients with the best service. Despite their diligence, sometimes conflicts can arise during the course of the case that may negatively impact its outcome. Here are a few things you can do if this happens to you.
Determine the Severity of the Conflict
Before you can decide how best to proceed when a conflict of interest develops, you first need to assess how severe it is. Many minor conflicts can be overcome with a simple disclosure and a new contract. For instance, your attorney previously worked in the law office that represents the defendant in the case. Since your lawyer is not employed at the law firm any longer, there's very little risk of the opposing legal team interfering with your case, so you shouldn't need to do anything.
However, severe conflicts may require transferring your case to a new attorney. For instance, you discover the attorney's brother-in-law is a supervisor at the company you're suing for damages. Depending on your lawyer's family dynamics, their relationship could affect how he or she handles your case. At the very least, it casts a shadow over your interactions with your attorney and, since trust is needed to work together effectively, it may be best to part ways and find someone else.
When discussing the conflict, ask as many questions as you can to understand the nature of the problem and how it may affect your attorney's ability to represent you. Don't be afraid to ask other people's opinion about the issue and then make the best decision for your situation.
See If the Conflict Can Be Eliminated
The next step is to determine if the conflict of interest can be eliminated or at least mitigated enough to not cause any problems in your case. For instance, Virginia and other states prohibits lawyers from taking adverse positions against their clients, which basically means the attorney can't argue against his or her clients, which can happen in cases where the lawyer represents both the plaintiff and defendant. So, a law firm representing two opposing clients may drop one to get rid of the problem.
If getting rid of the conflict isn't feasible, taking steps to reduce it is another option. In the previous example, if both clients insist on being represented by attorneys who work at the same law firm, the firm can arrange the work schedules to reduce the amount of interaction said attorneys have with each other and take steps to prevent information about either case from leaking to the opposing party (e.g. have one lawyer work from home for the duration of the lawsuit).
Be aware, though, that not all conflicts can be mitigated or eliminated. If you find your case is being affected by the conflict of interest, it's best to cut your losses and find another lawyer.
Get a Second Opinion
It can be challenging to determine how harmful a conflict of interest can be to your case, so you may have to solicit advice from another lawyer unconnected to your lawsuit. Although it's an expense you probably don't want to pay, talking to a neutral party who knows and understands the law may save you time and money in the long run by pointing out potential problems as well as solutions.
At a minimum, you should discuss the issue with friends and family who can help you see the issue from angles you otherwise may have overlooked.
When you've been a life-changing accident and you need to sue for compensation of medical, bills, or lost wages, you shouldn't also worry about conflicts of interest affecting your case. To learn more about how to handle this situation, contact an auto accident attorney.