What is this conflict waiver form the lawyer wants me to sign?
When a car accident victim meets with an attorney for the first time, the potential client will most likely sign a fee agreement and a medical authorization. If two clients from the same accident come to the same attorney, the attorney should explain what potential conflicts are and ask the clients to sign a waiver of potential conflict. This waiver applies when two or more clients who have a potential conflict of interest hire the same attorney. It applies in car accident cases because the driver and passenger(s) are often friends or family who naturally want to hire the same attorney.
Why does the lawyer want me to sign this conflict waiver?
Attorneys take on specific duties when representing clients. Duties include loyalty and independent judgment to each and every client. In Arizona, Ethical Rule 1.7, provides that a lawyer will not represent two clients with a conflict in interest unless the clients give written consent and the lawyer reasonably believes he can still diligently represent each client. In car accidents, this usually occurs when both a driver and passenger come to the same attorney. It is only natural when two family members or friends are in the same car, in the same accident, they want the same attorney. In cases with two or more potential clients, the interests may conflict because the passenger was almost certainly not at fault and the driver may perhaps have some percentage of fault. In cases where it is reasonably clear the other driver is to blame (ex. The clients got rear-ended when stopped) the attorney can reasonably believe that s/he can diligently represent both clients at the same time. This reasonable belief allows the attorney to ethically represent both the driver and passenger, but only if the clients agree to waive the potential conflict in writing.
I'm not planning on suing my driver, why do I still have to sign this conflict waiver?
Even though the passenger-client may have no intention of suing the driver-client, the ethical rules still require the attorney to get a signed informed consent conflict waiver. Having an attorney who knows and abides by the ethical rules will only help both clients. The waiver of conflict is not a trick the attorney is trying to play, it is simply an ethical duty, similar to the duty of loyalty that the attorney owes each client. When an attorney discusses the conflict waiver with you, it shows the attorney is acting ethically and should increase your trust that s/he will act ethically for you throughout your case.
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