Hiring an attorney to represent you in a legal matter means that a trained professional will be steering the ship that is your case. But what happens if the captain of that ship is asleep at the wheel? If your attorney misses a deadline, then you might lose your case. Fortunately, in that situation, you may be entitled to compensation by virtue of a legal malpractice claim. Here’s more on how missed deadlines can result in a legal malpractice claim, and what you can do if your attorney’s incompetence results in financial harm to you.
Causes Of Missed Deadlines
It is not uncommon for attorneys to take on more work than they can handle. Some attorneys will take up representation in a legal matter without fully anticipating the amount of work that will be involved. For example, an attorney might not expect your case to go to trial, so they don’t prepare accordingly. If your case goes to trial, then this may throw a wrench in your attorney’s plans, leading them to push other matters to the side. It is common practice for extensions on deadlines to be granted in these instances, but some less organized attorneys may cause a catastrophe by forgetting to seek an extension.
Also, when you hire an attorney, you are indirectly hiring the people within that attorney’s firm who will assist your attorney on your case. Attorneys will often rely on support staff to handle their schedule and alert them of any pending deadlines. If the support staff is inept or makes an error, then this could cause a deadline to be overlooked.
Common Types Of Missed Deadlines
Statute Of Limitations – The most common missed deadline relates to the statute of limitations in a particular case. The law limits the time in which most lawsuits can be filed. For example, lawsuits based on negligence usually have to be brought within a couple years of the date of an injury or accident. Medical malpractice claims usually have to be filed no later than one or two years. If your attorney missed the deadline to file your claim, the statute of limitations may bar your case from being heard.
Contesting A Will – If a person dies with a will and an interested party (e.g. a seemingly disinherited family member) seeks to contest that will, the law limits the time in which a will contest can be made. Failing to timely contest a will can result in you missing out on what you would have otherwise been entitled to from an estate had you successfully challenged the will. If your attorney failed to make you aware of the deadline to bring suit, then they could be liable for malpractice.
Summary Judgement Response – Summary judgement is a legal mechanism often used to weed out weak legal claims before they go to trial. If the opposing attorney files for summary judgement, your attorney has a set amount of time to respond. If no response is timely filed, then the court may grant the opposing party’s request which could result in your case being dismissed.
Missed Deadlines And Legal Malpractice
Not all missed deadlines result in a legal malpractice claim. Additionally, a missed deadline that is later cured by an extension or continuance is not malpractice. Generally speaking, in order to successfully bring a legal malpractice claim, you must show that your lawyer’s representation fell below the accepted professional standard for lawyers and this caused you harm.
If you believe that your initial attorney was negligent in adhering to deadlines in your case, a legal malpractice attorney may be able to help you recover what you lost due to your initial attorney’s mistakes. Remember, not all attorneys are perfect, but some make errors that can be devastating for you. Consulting with a legal malpractice attorney may give you clarity on how you can find justice for the harm that you have suffered.
William F. McMurry, who has four decades of experience fighting for clients’ rights in malpractice cases, 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. Reach out to William F. McMurry & Associates at (502) 326-9000 or contact us online to discuss your case.