Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 1, 2012

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The behavior of your attorney was a clear conflict of interest and a clear example of professional malpractice. All attorneys are bound by a code of rules, referred to as the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, that is promulgated by the American Bar Association. One of the major rules that applies to lawyers under this code is that they may not represent clients whenever a conflict of interest occurs, unless there is an informed waiver of the conflict. This rule even extends to past clients, so if your lawyer represented you when his firm was also representing the insurance company, then this is a major professional breach. 

Conflicts of Interest & Attorney Malpractice

While your attorney may be guilty of a breach of duty owed to you, you may be limited only to reporting him to the ethics committee. You can try to recover civil damages against him through a malpractice suit in order to receive monetary compensation, but in order to do so, you will need to be able to prove that your lawyer not only breached his duty (which is pretty clear), but also that the breach cost you money. In other words, you need to be able to prove that you would have had a different result, i.e. – a larger verdict, a better settlement, etc., if only that lawyer hadn’t been representing you despite his conflict of interest. Proving this can be a challenge. 

If your case hasn’t been decided yet, then your best bet is to immediately stop working with the attorney in question and to find another lawyer who doesn’t have any sort of relationship with the insurance company. Your new lawyer (one without conflicts of interest) can assess the situation, and help you to determine your best possible course of action regarding recovering your damages for attorney malpractice, and for the accident from the involved insurance companies.