When you have had a real estate transaction fall apart or lost a personal injury or divorce case, you may feel like your attorney did not properly do their job and adequately represent your interests. While it can be frustrating and discouraging to have lost the case, you may file a claim against your attorney for legal malpractice. However, you need to keep in mind that not every mistake can be considered malpractice, and if you fail to prove that, you may face legal repercussions.
What is Legal Malpractice?
Similar to any other form of malpractice, legal malpractice refers to negligent actions or situations where an attorney fails to perform their duty as per the standards and codes of professional and ethical conduct. Not winning the case or getting the expected outcome is not enough to establish legal malpractice, however, if the attorney should have violated the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association, you may have a valid claim.
How a Legal Malpractice Claim Works
To bring a legal malpractice action due to your attorney’s negligence, you will first have to establish that they did not provide the minimum standard of care acceptable within the law. A few examples of negligent actions that may lead to a legal malpractice claim include:
- Failing to collect, assess, or prepare evidence needed to support your case
- Not keeping you properly informed about your case or failing to seek authorization to carry out certain actions
- Not submitting documents within the deadline so that they can be used in meetings or hearings
- Committing professional or ethical violations, such as fee and billing abuses
- Engaging in a conflict of interest
Even if you are able to establish that your attorney was engaged in wrongful conduct or committed legal ethics violations, you may not recover compensation unless you can prove that you incurred monetary losses due to the legal malpractice.
Proving Legal Malpractice
If your attorney has made serious mistakes in handling your case, you may consider filing a claim for legal malpractice with a personal injury lawyer trusts. Unfortunately, winning a legal malpractice case is quite difficult. Essentially, you must prove four basic things to win a malpractice case:
- Duty: The attorney owed you a duty to provide you with legal services up to a minimum standard
- Breach of Duty: The attorney breached that duty – they made a mistake, was negligent in their actions, or did not work as they agreed to do.
- Causation: The breach of duty or wrongful conduct hurt you financially
- Damages: You incurred monetary losses as a result of their malpractice
In other words, you must first prove that the attorney did not handle your case properly and made errors during the process. Then you must establish that the underlying case would have been won if the attorney did not mishandle it. Finally, you must prove that you suffered financial losses which you could have recovered from the defendant if the attorney won the case for you.
The statute of limitations for a legal malpractice is generally one year, but it may vary from state to state. It is best that you work with a skilled attorney and ask them to review the facts thoroughly to know whether you have a legal malpractice claim against your former lawyer.