We often talk about protecting yourself against medical errors and malpractice, but negligence is not limited to the healthcare industry. Just as we hold doctors accountable through medical malpractice lawsuits, we must do the same for attorneys who commit legal malpractice.
Defining legal malpractice
We know the vulnerability and intimidation that may come with hiring an attorney. You need to be able to trust this person to successfully handle a complex, sensitive issue for you, because typically you cannot handle the matter yourself. Unfortunately, like doctors, attorneys can make mistakes and cause legal harm to their clients. These instances, called legal malpractice, occur when an attorney causes harm to his or her client(s) through negligent acts or omissions.
This type of malpractice can be challenging to prove. Similar to medical malpractice claims, you need to prove that the attorney(s) failed to act in a competent, reasonable manner. The attorney’s negligent action or inaction must also have caused damages, such as money damages or loss of opportunity. The client must prove that he or she would have been successful in achieving a positive result in their case but for the attorney’s malpractice. This is often called “proving a case within a case.”
It is important to recognize that negative outcomes (like losing a case) does not in and of itself constitute negligence. Some examples of acts that may constitute legal malpractice include:
- Failing to file a case by the deadline (called Statute of Limitations)
- Missing other filing, service, or court deadlines
- Misappropriating client money
- Suing the wrong party
What do I do if I think I’m a victim of legal malpractice?
It is important to find an attorney experienced in legal malpractice cases. Each case requires a thorough investigation into (1) the merits of the underlying legal matter you hired the original attorney to handle, and (2) the nature of the malpractice, ie what did the attorney do or fail to do that caused you harm in the underlying case.
Gather the paperwork in your possession related to your case as well as any agreements you signed with the original attorney and seek out a legal malpractice attorney to review your case.
At Scartelli Olszewski, we recognize how important your legal rights are, and we will fight to make things right for you. Our talented team of lawyers, with a combined 85+ years of experience, is passionate about helping victims of negligence. If you believe that you are a victim of legal malpractice, call or message us today.