As long-time legal professionals ourselves, we strongly encourage Florida residents to seek legal counsel when they need it.
Whether you are seeking justice for a personal injury, planning for your retirement, going through a divorce, or defending yourself against a criminal charge, a good attorney can play an invaluable role in helping you navigate a tricky legal situation successfully.
But what happens when the attorney you hired and trusted with your affairs doesn’t end up being so trustworthy after all? What if your attorney’s negligence or errors end up making your legal situation even worse? If your lawyer fails to handle your case with due care or does not live up to certain standards, he or she has committed legal malpractice, and can be held accountable for the harm and inconvenience caused to you.
Legal Malpractice Defined
As licensed professionals, lawyers have a duty to provide legal services to their clients using reasonable care. Reasonable care is generally considered to be the level of care and skill which is recognized as both appropriate and acceptable by most reasonable attorneys given the present circumstances. Common examples of legal malpractice include:
- Failing to sue within the statute of limitations
- Failing to meet a filing deadline
- Negligently drafting legal documents
- Failing to apply the law correctly to your situation
- Failing to perform adequate research
- Abusing or misusing your trust account
- Failing to advise you properly
- Failing to return phone calls
In order to sue an attorney for legal malpractice, you must demonstrate that their negligence caused you loss or damages. If your attorney’s conduct or errors directly resulted in an adverse outcome to you, you may have a legal malpractice claim.
However, holding your attorney accountable for legal malpractice can be challenging. To file a successful professional malpractice suit, you generally will be required to prove the following:
Duty. In order to prove legal malpractice, you must show that your lawyer owed a duty to you. Duty is often the easiest element to prove, since an attorney typically has a duty to you as soon as he or she takes on your case.
Breach. Next, you’ll have to prove that your attorney breached their duty as your attorney, whether the breach was negligence, error, or going against your agreement.
Causation. After proving your attorney breached his or her duty to you, the next step is to demonstrate that this breach was the direct cause of damages to you. Basically, you must prove that you would have won your case if your attorney had not committed malpractice.
Damages. Finally, you must show that you suffered damages in the form of financial loss. Typically, the damages will be the money you would have received had your attorney not mishandled your case.
As you no doubt have realized, proving legal malpractice is no easy task. If you believe you have suffered damages because of the negligence or error of an attorney, you should contact a respected lawyer with a proven track record of success in professional malpractice cases.
An attorney can help you determine whether you have a professional malpractice case, and explain your options and rights in your unique situation. Your attorney can help you take your case to court and demonstrate all the necessary elements of a legal malpractice case. With the help of a skilled attorney, you may be able to recover the damages and losses incurred from an irresponsible lawyer’s negligence.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.