Being involved in a car accident, product liability, slip and fall, medical malpractice, or any personal injury case can be challenging. Not only do you endure pain, medical bills, and suffering, but you also must find legal representation to try to gain a fair settlement. Most of the time, the legal team performs its job competently.
Unfortunately, sometimes your attorney messes up your case, and your ability to recover compensation is diminished. Depending on the circumstances, you may have the right to obtain a new attorney and file a legal malpractice claim if your attorney screwed up your case.
What is legal malpractice?
Legal malpractice occurs if an attorney is negligent, makes a grievous error, or violates a standard of professional conduct. Sometimes an attorney lacked the experience to effectively represent you, yet took on your case anyway and made errors. Just making a simple mistake does not constitute legal malpractice. Indeed, even an experienced attorney makes mistakes sometimes.
However, if the mistake is severe enough to prevent you from filing or winning your case, it could constitute legal malpractice. A legal malpractice claim, however, is complicated. You should file the claim as soon as possible.
What are some examples of legal malpractice?
Your attorney might have committed legal malpractice if they made some of these common errors.
- Had a conflict of interest and failed to disclose it. A conflict of interest arises if the attorney owes allegiance to any person or entity whose interests conflict with yours. An example would be if the law firm they work for has previously represented the other party in your lawsuit.
- Missing the statute of limitations. Every lawsuit has a deadline for filing, known as the statute of limitations. If your attorney missed the deadline, your personal injury case could not proceed, no matter how egregious.
- Breaching their fiduciary duty. The lawyer’s job is to act in your best interest. If the attorney failed to do so, they might have committed malpractice.
- Failing to respect attorney client privilege. One of the cardinal rules of the attorney client relationship is that what you tell your attorney is confidential. If they tell others about your conversation, the attorney breached this rule.
- Failing to disclose a settlement offer from an insurance company. Clients have the right to know about and make informed decisions about accepting an offer.
- Failing to conduct research into the facts of the case or failure to research relevant statutes. If your attorney failed to study and prepare adequately, they might have committed malpractice.
- Practicing under the influence of drugs.
- Neglecting to communicate with you or answering your reasonable requests for information about your personal injury case.
- Mishandling client funds that may be in a trust account.
- Losing key evidence.
Do you have a legal malpractice claim?
Even if your attorney violates a rule of professional conduct or your lawyer’s negligence causes you to lose your case, you’ll still have to prove your attorney committed legal malpractice to receive compensation. The facts will more likely prove legal malpractice if they have certain legal elements.
The Personal Injury Lawyer Owed A Duty of Care
Once you sign a written agreement with a lawyer, you establish an attorney client relationship. The attorney then owes a duty of care to act in your best interests.
The Personal Injury Attorney Breached the Duty of Care
In legal malpractice claims, you must prove that the lawyer was negligent, violated professional conduct standards, or failed to use ordinary skill in handling your legal case. You may also have to prove that the attorney’s actions failed to meet a reasonable diligence or reasonable care standard.
The Attorney’s Breach Caused Damages
You’ll also have to prove that the attorney’s negligence resulted in damages to you. For example, suppose your lawyer failed to file your personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired. The attorney’s failure resulted in your inability to seek compensation. Or suppose your attorney failed to research and submit medical bills when they filed your car accident claim. As a result, you were unable to recover payment for your medical costs.
What should I do if my attorney screwed up my case?
If your lawyer has made a grave error that caused you to incur financial loss, you may have a legal malpractice case. However, legal malpractice cases are difficult to prove. You must prove that the former attorney or law firm committed the wrongdoing. You’ll have to establish that a reasonable attorney would have made a different decision under the same circumstances. You must also show that their mistake caused damage, especially serious damage to your original personal injury action.
You may also have to show that the lawyer’s actions ruined your case. Not all personal injury cases are winnable. If your case was weak to begin with, you might not collect any damages if your lawyer made mistakes in handling it. However, if your claim was strong and your attorney caused you to lose it, you could win a legal malpractice lawsuit.
When you discover your former lawyer made a mistake, you should seek legal representation immediately from a different lawyer. Legal malpractice cases have a statute of limitations, which varies depending on your state. In some states, the statute of limitations is only one year from when you learned of the misdeed.
You’ll need to hire a personal injury lawyer who specializes in handling legal malpractice cases. Often, a former lawyer or their insurance company will settle a malpractice case out of court. However, you want a lawyer who can handle litigation should your malpractice case require courtroom experience.
Most lawyers provide a free case evaluation. If you and your new lawyer believe that your case is strong, you can proceed with filing the claim. If your free consultation reveals that your malpractice claim is weak, you still have some other options. You can report the offending lawyer to the state bar association or the American Bar Association. The associations will investigate the claim. If they find the claim is serious enough, they can discipline the attorney, including disbarring them.
How can I find representation for my legal malpractice case?
The good news is you don’t have to make several phone calls to find a personal injury law firm to represent you in legal malpractice cases. 1-800Ask-Gary helps match clients with competent and experienced legal services. The referral hotline can help direct you to a lawyer who can protect your legal rights when another attorney screws up. 1-800-Ask-Gary can connect you with attorneys in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico. Call 1-800-Ask-Gary today.