The laws and policies surrounding our criminal justice system are always changing, and throughout the arrest or conviction process, little things may make a huge difference in sentencing.
This is why we put our trust in experienced lawyers. They serve as experts of the law, whether it is criminal law, estate planning law, personal injury law, or other specialized areas.
Law school and their experience in the courtroom is supposed to provide lawyers with the tools they need to do their jobs well. But some lawyers care more about their bottom line than their clients and do not provide adequate service.
Unfortunately, when a lawyer doesn’t do his or her job correctly, is can result in jail time, heavy penalties, or a ruling that hurts your ability to live a normal life.
Lawyers are supposed to provide their clients with a service – just like a doctor. If a doctor follows practices that cause you physical, mental, or financial damages, you can file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
Well, attorneys who don’t live up to their legal requirements can be sued, too. Just like you can sue a doctor for, you can also sue a lawyer for legal malpractice.
But it’s not enough to argue that your lawyer “wasn’t good enough” because they didn’t win your case. You need specific grounds to sue for legal malpractice.
Let’s explore the definition of legal malpractice so you can determine whether you have a case.
What Does Florida Consider Legal Malpractice?
Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer acts with negligence (or refuses to fulfill specific duties) and causes damage to his or her client. Legal malpractice is typically measured by the abilities of similar lawyers. If faced with a similar client in a similar circumstance, what would the common practice of other lawyers be?
Common Legal Malpractice Claims. Legal malpractice is not just bound to one action or one definition. Some of the most common reasons that people file legal malpractice claims include:
- Failure to Know or Apply the Law
- Error in Planning
- Failure to File Documents with No Deadline
- Failure to File Documents Because The Lawyer Is Unaware of the Deadline
- Conflict of Interest
- Failure to Obtain Consent from Client
Commonly Mistaken for Legal Malpractice Claims. On the other hand, there are many scenarios that are commonly believed to be legal malpractice, but are in fact completely legal, including:
- You were given bad advice from a lawyer that you were not contractually tied to.
- Your lawyer cannot prove your innocence.
- Your lawyer settles for an amount that is far less than they initially told you your case was worth.
- Your lawyer is seen socializing with the opposing lawyer in your case.
Proving Legal Malpractice
If your lawyer managed to use their experience and knowledge to the best of their ability in court and failed to prove your innocence, your lawyer has not committed legal malpractice.
However, if your lawyer could not prove your innocence and you can prove to the court that another lawyer would have been able to prove your innocence with the same resources and knowledge, then you may have a strong case.
But how do you prove that? Herein lies the central problem with filing legal malpractice suits. They’re not always easy to prove.
In any scenario, you will have to come to a legal malpractice hearing ready to prove the following:
- The attorney had a duty to act in a certain manner/complete a certain task
- The attorney breached that duty by being negligent, making a mistake, or going against their word
- The attorney’s negligence or breach of duty caused you damage, whether it is financial, physical, or legal
If You Believe You are the Victim of Legal Malpractice
There are a few steps you can take if you believe you are the victim of legal malpractice. One option is to speak with someone working with Florida’s attorney regulatory agency.
It’s also wise to consult with multiple other lawyers who have dealt with cases like yours. What mistakes did your lawyer make? What resources did your lawyer have access to that they neglected to use? These are questions that lawyers can answer, as well as giving you second or third opinions on how much your settlement was worth (or the sentence you could have received).
Another option is to contact a Florida personal injury lawyer with experience working legal malpractice claims to represent you in court. A lawyer with experience and a history of winning legal malpractice cases is a good resource to have on your side through the process of filing a claim and proving your case in court.
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 1996. 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.