My Attorney Screwed Up My Case…What Are My Rights?
There are a number of circumstances where you may find yourself seeking compensation from a party whose negligence caused you harm. Maybe you were involved in a car accident because another motorist was careless or a truck crash because of a machinery malfunction. Perhaps a property owner failed to address a hazard on their property, resulting in an avoidable accident. You might have even lost a loved one because someone else was negligent.
Any of these situations can leave you facing a variety of struggles. They may include the following:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
There are several ways you can pursue compensation for such losses. You may file a claim to collect from the insurance of the negligent party who caused your accident. Alternatively, you can file a lawsuit if the negligent party does not have insurance. Filing a lawsuit is also an option to consider if an insurance company won’t offer a fair settlement.
The Role of An Attorney in Your Case
However, merely taking some form of legal action does not guarantee you will be compensated fairly (if at all). It’s highly likely the negligent party or their insurer will strive to avoid compensating you properly.
This is one of the many reasons it’s important to consider hiring an attorney. A lawyer’s expertise will typically improve your odds of securing a favorable outcome. However, not all lawyers are equally qualified to represent their clients.
Perhaps you hired an attorney but still failed to recover proper compensation. This can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the reason a case doesn’t go a victim’s way is simple: They hired an incompetent lawyer.
Did your case not end with the result you believe it should have? It’s possible your attorney failed to provide you with the representation you deserve.
You may have options in these circumstances. Specifically, you could sue your attorney for legal malpractice. This guide will explain what legal malpractice is and what you need to know about the pros and cons of filing a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Understanding the Basics of Legal Malpractice
Certain types of professionals are expected (and even required) to provide their clients with a certain quality of service. For example, medical professionals are held to high standards regarding their duties to their patients. A doctor who harms a patient out of carelessness may be guilty of medical malpractice.
Attorneys can be held to similar standards. They have a duty to offer their clients the representation they deserve. Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to do so.
Proving Legal Malpractice
You must show that you deserve compensation because you lost a case due to an attorney’s failure to represent you adequately. This requires proving the following:
- Your attorney had a duty to serve you according to certain standards that apply to all attorneys
- Your attorney was negligent or did not serve you according to your contract with them
- Your attorney’s failure to represent you caused you harm
- You are eligible for compensation due to your attorney’s negligence
Proving all this can be difficult. That’s not to say it’s impossible to receive compensation if your attorney is guilty of legal malpractice. You must simply understand that winning this type of case may be a challenge.
Why Winning Legal Malpractice Cases is Difficult
There are, again, many reasons you might not win your personal injury case. Not all of them involve legal malpractice. For example, you might not have won your case because:
- You failed to properly communicate with your attorney or provide them with essential details of the case.
- You lied to your attorney.
- You exaggerated your injuries and losses in an effort to receive more compensation than you were eligible for.
- You ignored a doctor’s orders or otherwise engaged in behavior that an insurance company or negligent party could object to.
When filing a legal malpractice lawsuit, you need to be prepared to guard against accusations that your own actions (or lack of action) were the primary reason your case did not end in your favor. You also need to prove that your attorney was negligent. This often involves collecting a substantial amount of evidence.
You must prove your attorney engaged in some form of behavior that qualifies as legal malpractice, such as:
- Improperly applying the law
- Not adequately understanding the law
- Not filing documents or filing documents with inaccuracies
- Failure to investigate the case as thoroughly as necessary
- Failure to obtain your consent when taking certain actions
- Committing fraud
The difficulty of showing legal malpractice will depend on why you believe your lawyer provided deficient representation. For example, maybe you believe your attorney is guilty of legal malpractice because they failed to file key documents in a timely manner.
This type of legal malpractice case may be relatively easy to win when compared to others. That’s because it is based on objective fact. If your lawyer didn’t file documents on time, proving they were negligent will merely involve showing they made an avoidable error that cost you your case.
However, maybe you’re accusing your attorney of legal malpractice because you believe they didn’t understand how to apply the law. Proving legal malpractice occurred in these circumstances can be significantly more difficult.
This is partially because there is a very good chance your attorney did understand the law. There are certainly licensed attorneys who don’t know the law as well as they should. However, if the state bar recognizes your attorney as one qualified to practice in your state, odds are good they are familiar enough with the law to serve your needs.
Whether your attorney understood the law and applied it properly is also a subjective matter. It’s difficult to prove without a doubt that you lost your case because your lawyer didn’t know the law.
Should I File a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit?
None of this is meant to discourage you from taking action if your lawyer failed you. Sometimes lawyers do commit legal malpractice.
Instead, this information is meant to help you understand why you need to prepare thoroughly if you plan on filing a legal malpractice lawsuit. It also highlights the importance of documenting your attorney’s behavior during a personal injury case.
Avoid Being the Victim of Legal Malpractice
If you’re seeking compensation after being injured, hiring a lawyer with a positive reputation and years of experience can help you avoid being the victim of legal malpractice. Contact an experienced attorney today for help.