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Limiting Representation to Personal Injury Claim

Adopted: January 24, 1997

Opinion rules that a lawyer may decline to represent a client on the property damage claim while agreeing to represent the client on the personal injury claim arising out of a motor vehicle accident provided that the limited representation will not adversely affect the client's representation on the personal injury claim and the client consents after full disclosure.

Inquiry #1:

Motorist A and Motorist B were involved in a motor vehicle collision. Motorist A sustained bodily injuries and damage to her automobile. Motorist A asked Attorney A to represent her. Attorney A agreed to represent her only on her personal injury claim. Attorney A sent a letter of representation to Motorist B's automobile liability insurance carrier indicating that Attorney A represents Motorist A with respect to Motorist A's personal injury claim only. The letter states that a claims representative for the insurance carrier may continue to "deal with" Motorist A with respect to Motorist A's property damage claim but representatives of the insurance carrier should have no further contact with Motorist A with regard to her personal injury claim. May Attorney A ethically limit his representation of Motorist A to her personal injury claim?

Opinion #1:

Yes, provided Attorney A determines that the representation of Motorist A on her personal injury claim will not be adversely affected by allowing Motorist A to represent herself on the property damage claim and Motorist A consents to the limited representation after full disclosure by Attorney A of the risks involved. SeeRule 7.1(b)(3). 

Inquiry #2:

May a claims representative for Motorist B's insurance carrier contact Motorist A concerning the motor vehicle collision after receiving a letter of representation of the type described in inquiry #1?

Opinion #2:

The Rules of Professional Conduct do not apply to the conduct of a claims representative for an insurance carrier. However, a lawyer who represents the insurance carrier is subject to the Rules. Rule 7.4(1) permits communications about the subject matter of a representation with a party the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter if the party's lawyer consents to the communication. Attorney A's letter of representation not only indicates that he does not represent Motorist A with regard to her property damage claim but that he also consents to communications with Motorist A about the property damage claim. Therefore, a lawyer for the insurance carrier may communicate with Motorist A provided the communications are limited to the property damage claim.

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