Introduction

When you place your trust in a lawyer, you should be able to have confidence that the legal advice they provide will be accurate and reliable. Unfortunately, when legal malpractice occurs, the potential damages can be huge. In this article, we’ll cover what legal malpractice is, the causes, how to identify signs of it, remedies, details on seeking redress, and tips on taking action afterward. Know your rights and understand when and how to take action, and you can protect yourself from legal malpractice.

What Is Legal Malpractice?

Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to meet their professional, legal obligations to their client. Typically, it involves negligent or incompetent legal services that cause harm to the client in some way. Malpractice can also include intentional wrongs such as fraud, misrepresentation, or breaches of fiduciary and ethical duties.

Examples of Legal Malpractice

  • Failing to file documents on time or at all
  • Negligence in researching or gathering evidence
  • Knowingly giving incorrect advice
  • Misappropriation of funds
  • Conflicts of interest

Causes of Legal Malpractice

Legal malpractice can be caused by a range of factors, such as inexperience, greed, negligence, or a lack of professional judgment. In some cases, an attorney could make a mistake due to working on too many cases and becoming overwhelmed. In other cases, an attorney could commit legal malpractice intentionally, knowing that they’re not providing their client with the best advice.

How to Spot Signs of Legal Malpractice

If you suspect that you’re the victim of legal malpractice, there are several warning signs that you should look out for. These include:

  • Your case unexpectedly or inexplicably drags on
  • Your lawyer is unresponsive or difficult to get in touch with
  • You are provided with misrepresentations or incorrect advice
  • You don’t understand the legal documents you are asked to sign
  • You are not kept informed of your case

If you notice any of the warning signs, you should have your situation assessed by other legal professionals to determine if there is evidence of legal malpractice.

Remedies for Legal Malpractice

A remedy for legal malpractice depends on the specifics of the situation, but generally, the most common type of remedy is called compensatory damages. This type of damages are intended to compensate a client for the harm that was caused by the negligent or intentional conduct.

Types of Compensatory Damages

  • Economic Damages: Includes compensation for monetary losses, such as lost wages, medical bills, or legal fees.
  • Non-economic Damages: Includes compensation for any intangible losses, such as pain and suffering caused by the malpractice.
  • Punitive Damages: In some cases, a court may award punitive damages—which are intended to punish the attorney—if the case involved particularly egregious behavior.

Seeking Redress for Legal Malpractice

In most cases, a court or state agency will handle a legal malpractice claim. To seek redress, you must file a “complaint” (official document) and provide evidence to support your claim, such as legal documents, statements from witnesses, etc. Your case will be evaluated by a judge, who will then decide whether you are entitled to the compensatory damages discussed above.

Taking Action After Legal Malpractice

Legal malpractice can be expensive and emotionally draining. It is natural to feel angry and betrayed after having your trust in a lawyer violated. To ensure that this doesn’t happen to any other clients, consider filing a complaint with the state bar association against the lawyer or firm that you believe has committed legal malpractice. When attorneys are sanctioned by the bar, it can serve as a warning to others and may prevent additional malpractice from occurring. You may also wish to speak to other attorneys in your area to protect yourself from further harm. Many lawyers provide free consultations, so use this opportunity to ask questions, compare experience levels, services, and fee structures.

Conclusion

No attorney wants to be held accountable for committing legal malpractice, but it’s important to remember that if an attorney mishandles a case, there are measures that can be taken to seek redress. Know your rights, understand the law, and if you believe an attorney has acted negligently or taken advantage of your trust, take action. Your efforts may help protect fellow clients from suffering the same injustice.

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