It is well understood in the legal community that the vast number of lawsuits result in a settlement of some kind. Most lawyers would agree that a settlement is preferred to taking a case to trial. Notably, trials are often expensive and risky, and juries have been known to make decisions that are outside of the law or are inconsistent with the overwhelming amount of evidence. But what happens if your attorney encourages you to settle even though you may have a good chance at winning at trial and securing a large payout? If your attorney knowingly misrepresents the strength of your case or fraudulently induces you to settle, then you could potentially file a legal malpractice claim against them. Let’s take a look at settlements in connection with legal malpractice, and what you can do to ensure that you are getting competent, transparent representation.
Settling Vs. Going To Trial
Many legal matters are resolved in a manner that is satisfactory to the initiating party. Settlements are essentially an agreement between the parties that the legal matter has been resolved between them. Agreements are preferred as they are both economical and difficult to appeal. Defendants also prefer settlements as those agreements typically preclude further legal action by virtue of the agreements fully resolving all disputes between the parties.
Trials are inherently less predictable than a settlement. Trials are decided by either a judge or a jury. In either scenario, the parties to the lawsuit are unaware of how the case will turn out until the judge or jury announces the verdict. Additionally, both parties will need to present their side of the case which can be costly and take months to complete. However, trials could still result in settlements at the 11th hour.
The Role Of Your Attorney In Deciding How To Proceed
In most scenarios, in determining how to best proceed, your attorney will weigh the strength of your case along with the productivity of any ongoing settlement discussions with the other side. While ultimately the decision on whether to go to trial or accept a settlement rests with you, your attorney has a tremendous amount of influence on that decision. Your attorney will most likely make a recommendation, but they cannot unilaterally decide whether to settle or go to trial.
Is It Malpractice?
If you have been advised to accept a settlement offer that you believe is substantially less than what you would expect to receive by taking the case through trial, then this may not be enough to prove a malpractice claim. Settlements are in most cases worth considerably less money than a potential jury award. But if your attorney has misrepresented key facts in your case, or has been negligent in the handling of your matter – and this led you to take a bad settlement – then you may have a legal malpractice case. Still, courts have been reluctant to award damages in legal malpractice claims absent them finding fraud to exist. So, merely second-guessing your attorney’s strategy is not enough.
Particularly, in Goff v. Justice, 120 S.W.3d 716 (2002) the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that if a low settlement is made because of the Client’s attorney’s malpractice, the Client is entitled to bring a malpractice claim against his/her attorney.
In White v. Kreithen, 435 Pa Super. 115 (1994) the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the Plaintiff was compelled to settle for $150,000 or be forced to immediate trial, because of the conduct of Plaintiff’s attorney. Therefore, the Court held that the Plaintiff had no choice but to accept the figure, because of the negligence of Plaintiff’s attorney in not having the case ready for trial.
When it comes to hiring a malpractice firm, consider William F. McMurry & Associates. Notably, founder William F. McMurry is a legal malpractice and medical malpractice trial specialist who is Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. If your attorney caused you to have a bad result, then reach out to William F. McMurry & Associates by calling (502) 326-9000 or by contacting us online for a consultation.