How Do Legal Malpractice Claims Work?
In bringing a claim for legal malpractice (professional liability), you have to show that your attorney was negligent in the handling of your case. There are a few basic components to take into account. First, you have to show that your attorney owed you a duty of care. This is often reflected by your representation or engagement agreement. However, it could also be evidenced through an implied promise such as your attorney verbally agreeing to perform a legal service that was not specified in your legal agreement.
Secondly, you have to show that your attorney breached this duty of care, which can be demonstrated through the attorney’s failure to use the care, skill or diligence that other attorneys would have used in a given situation. Say, for example, that an attorney failed to bring your claim within the statute of limitations or had failed to meet a court-imposed deadline. Perhaps your attorney was ignorant of the laws in your case or had misrepresented information relating to your situation. These are things that you would not expect from other attorneys, but instead clear mistakes.
However, what if your attorney did not rely upon certain evidence in a case which was available to him, or he had taken aggressive steps in litigation which created additional costs or perils for you? It is possible that these decisions could have been made for a legitimate purpose. Your attorney’s rationale might be considered the norm by other attorneys who are in the profession. So, it is not always clear whether the attorney’s failures amount to a breach. The devil is in the details.
Thirdly, you must show that you would have received a more favorable outcome if not for your attorney’s actions – or lack thereof. In order to demonstrate this, the original case is essentially re-litigated to determine errors which could have caused you to incur an unfavorable or abnormal outcome. This necessitates a meticulous review by an attorney who is experienced with legal malpractice cases especially since each case is very fact-specific.
Finally, if you obtain compensation or otherwise prevail to some degree in your case, you could still bring a lawsuit alleging legal malpractice based upon allegations that your compensation or relief would have been better had it not been for your attorney’s actions. For example, your attorney’s missteps or unveiling of facts could cause opposing counsel to lower their settlement offer. If you take that reduced settlement offer in fear of losing your case at trial, then you might lose out on a lot of compensation in the settlement. If your attorney is to blame for this, then you could sue them for legal malpractice.
Legal Malpractice Attorneys To The Rescue
When attorneys make careless and unacceptable mistakes leading to a less than desirable outcome for you, holding them accountable for their legal malpractice is often times the only way forward. However, legal malpractice claims can be confusing, difficult and hard to prove given the numerous grey areas in the law. Most importantly, legal malpractice cases could fall apart when they are taken on by attorneys who are not well versed on bringing malpractice cases or who do not have trial experience. The level of legal expertise can impact the amount of money that you receive in your case.
William F. McMurry, who has four decades of experience fighting for clients’ rights in malpractice cases, is the only attorney who is Board Certified as a legal malpractice and medical malpractice trial specialist by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in Kentucky, Florida and North Carolina. If your attorney caused you to have a bad result in your legal matter, reach out to William F. McMurry & Associates at (502) 326-9000 and consult with our experienced counsel today.