Common Bases of Malpractice Claims
A lawyer cannot win every case. Sometimes, the facts or the law are just not in the lawyer's favor. Other times, however, something else may have gone wrong. Occasionally a lawyer makes an error that seriously damages the case. If you believe that your lawyer committed legal malpractice, consult an attorney to learn what steps you may take.
What Is Legal Malpractice?
An attorney who has committed legal malpractice has breached a duty to a client, causing the client harm. The lawyer breaches the duty by providing service that is below the accepted levels in the legal profession. The harm to the client must include reaching a less favorable outcome or losing the case.
Legal Malpractice Claims
Grounds for legal malpractice claims vary widely, but some are more common than others:
Missed Deadlines: To keep the legal system moving along, state and federal governments impose limits on how much time plaintiffs have to file various types of lawsuits. It is essential to meet these deadlines, because afterward it will be too late. When an attorney misses an important deadline, this can mean the difference between a successful lawsuit and no lawsuit at all.
Incompetence: A lawyer must be competent in the field of law in which the lawyer is working. This does not mean that the lawyer has to be an expert, but it does mean that the lawyer must be able to do the necessary work, research and advocacy. A lawyer who is incompetent can cause serious harm to a client's interests.
Mistakes: A mistake by a lawyer is not necessarily malpractice. Some mistakes have no negative consequences; some may reflect a reasonable attorney's way of doing things; and others may not have been inconsistent with the duty of care a lawyer owes a client. Serious errors that affect the outcome of a case, however, are another matter. These types of mistakes may be grounds for a malpractice claim.
Conflicts of Interest: The lawyer must provide the client with undivided loyalty. Conflicts of interest, therefore, are by and large not permitted in the practice of law. Business interests, personal conflicts and especially other clients can all present problems. Attorneys in the same firm are usually not allowed to work with opposing clients. This is designed to ensure that each client receives the lawyer's full effort.
Speak with an Attorney
Legal malpractice lawsuits can be complex because the burden of proof is high. A moderate mistake by a lawyer is usually not enough to sustain a legal malpractice claim, but a significant problem that influenced the outcome of your case may be. It is important to speak with an attorney who has experience in this area of the law. Contact an attorney who can answer your questions and evaluate your case.
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