When to Contact a Legal Malpractice Attorney
What is legal malpractice? Attorneys, like everybody else, are human beings, and they are not infallible. Due to poor organizational habits, laziness, absentmindedness, greed, or simple human error, a lawyer may not provide competent professional service. Competent professional service simply means the accepted standard of diligence to which an “average” attorney would rise in the same circumstances. Common examples of possible malpractice by a lawyer include missing court dates, improperly submitting documents, settling a case without your permission, and failing to contact you about your case. If you think your lawyer might be guilty of malpractice, it’s best to seek the expert advice of a legal malpractice attorney.
Types of Legal Malpractice
Legal malpractice attorneys consider malpractice to fall into three major categories.
- Negligence – Your lawyer must perform all work relevant to a case with a standard of care equal to that of an “average” attorney. If the attorney fails to perform within accepted standards, this could be considered negligence, and he or she could be liable for legal malpractice. The most common complaint against lawyers that state bar associations receive is a failure to communicate with a client by neglecting to return phone calls. If this is happening to you, it is important to establish your documentation. Contact your attorney by mail and voice your concerns. Request a phone call, a written update on your case, and specific responses to any questions you may have. It is important to establish a “paper trail.” If your attorney remains unresponsive, you may be able to claim malpractice; your legal malpractice attorney will be able to use your letter to bolster your case.
- Breach of fiduciary duty — A lawyer may be liable to a client in a civil action for breach of fiduciary duty if he places his interests ahead of the client and the client suffers damages because of it. Examples could include conflict of interest, entering into unfair contracts with a client, or obtaining unwarranted gifts from a client. Legal malpractice cases can and are sometimes based on mere negligence, but in order for fiduciary breach of conflict to be recognized, the lawyer must have violated a specific fiduciary obligation owed to you. A legal malpractice attorney can help you determine if you have a case based on breach of fiduciary duty.
- Breach of contract – This form of malpractice occurs when your attorney doesn’t do what he is obligated to do by the contract he signed with you. It can be difficult for a non-attorney to navigate all the intricacies of contract law; the best policy is to consult an experienced legal malpractice lawyer.
Winning the Case
If you think your attorney has committed malpractice, it is recommended that your first file a complaint with your lawyer’s State Bar Association. The SBA licenses and regulates attorneys, but won’t help you recover damages. For that, you need a legal malpractice lawyer.
In order to win a legal malpractice case, your legal malpractice attorney must prove that your lawyer owed you a duty to act competently, that he acted negligently, and that you suffered financial harm as a direct result of his actions, or his lack of them. When all these conditions are in place, a legal malpractice lawyer can prevail for you.
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