Anytime you hire a lawyer, they have a duty to provide you a specific standard of care at a level that any reasonable competent attorney would provide. If the lawyer fails in that duty, you likely have a case against them for legal malpractice. In every state, legal malpractice is a civil offense that often results in an attorney malpractice lawsuit.
However, for your legal malpractice lawsuit to be successful, you will need to prove numerous conditions were present. Some of those conditions include:
It is your obligation to prove that the attorney was negligent in their behavior when handling your personal or business affairs. To prove negligence, the behavior of the attorney will be assessed against the action that any reasonable lawyer would have provided. If your attorney’s actions, or an omission of action, were at an unacceptable standard of care, it will likely be viewed as negligence in a court of law.
Often times, the negligence is a result of not filing paperwork in a timely manner, or exceeding the statute of limitations. If the attorney told you all paperwork would be filed on time, and it was not, it is often viewed as an unacceptable level of professional conduct.
Many legal malpractice cases involve a lack of communication, when the attorney violated their ethical responsibility to maintain contact with the client. Other cases involve dishonesty or incompetence where the client was misled or lied to, directly or indirectly.
In order to be successful in obtaining financial recompense for your damages, you must prove a direct correlation between your loss and the attorney’s negligence. In many cases, this may be difficult to prove. An adverse or unacceptable result of a finding, sentencing or outcome of a legal proceeding does not necessarily indicate your lawyer breached the acceptable standards of care. Additionally, any absence of adverse results would likely void any claim you have to file suit for legal malpractice.
Filing a Complaint
Each state provide citizens an agency, like the Bar Association or the state Supreme Court, which maintains responsibility for disciplining lawyers violating rules of legal ethical behavior. Filing a complaint against your lawyer for incompetent performance, lying or other ethical violation is usually a simple process. Common reasons that clients file a complaint include:
• A misuse of your money by the attorney
• Failure to appear at a court hearing
• Failure to communicate with you, the court or any opposing counsel
• Improper withdrawal as your legal representative
• Failure to resolve any obvious/inconspicuous conflict of interest
• Failure to perform services within the state statute of limitations
• Lying to the judge in your case, or you
• Participation in criminal activities
If you believe your lawyer engaged in one or more of the activities above, or was incompetent/dishonest, you should take steps to report the incident to the appropriate state agency. Even though the response from government agencies is often slow, the process can assist in holding your attorney accountable for their action.
Legal Malpractice Remedies
If you believe you are the victim of attorney malpractice, you can seek financial recompense in a variety of ways. Common remedies include filing a civil lawsuit against your lawyer or taking your case to mediation. A successful suit can assist you in recovering monetary damages. Any fraudulent activity or theft by the attorney could also bring criminal prosecution.
Additionally, your filed claim for legal malpractice will likely be reported to the state’s disciplinary board, which could bring potential disciplinary action such as fines and/or disbarment.
It is often recommended to hire a law firm that specializes in professional malpractice cases. A skilled attorney can develop an effective strategy to hold the defendant of your claim legally accountable for their unacceptable standards of care and negligence. Like other personal injury cases, most attorneys work on legal malpractice claims for a contingency fee, receiving payment only if the law firm is successful in recovering financial compensation for you.