Every human being is capable of error: house painters, schoolteachers, doctors and lawyers. When those mistakes are made in the course of ones professional work, however, there needs to be accountability. A painter may be asked to redo a job, and a teacher may be reprimanded. When doctors neglect to meet a standard of care they can be sued for malpractice.
Lawyers, too, can be sued for failing to meet the professional standards expected of them on behalf of their clients. Though so-called legal malpractice attorneys pursue these cases, legal malpractice falls under personal injury law. Therefore, any legal malpractice attorney is, by definition, a personal injury lawyer but not every personal injury lawyer specializes in legal malpractice.
An attorneys mistakes can have huge consequences in both criminal and civil cases. Those mistakes generally fall under attorney negligence or unethical behavior, and include the following:
Failure to comply with the rules of civil litigation or the criminal court.
Failure to present evidence that is known to exist and which can have a material effect on the outcome of a case.
Failing to represent the client in a manner that is prudent, competent and scrupulous.
Failure to meet a statute of limitations.
Fraudulent or unethical representation, such as when there is a conflict of interest.
But just as most legal infractions have a statute of limitations, so too does legal malpractice. In California, you must file your case within one year of the malpractice incident.
To be clear, pursuit of legal malpractice effectively means that the case itself is retried. Your legal malpractice attorney will need to show that lawyer negligence adversely affected the outcome of the original case. Only when that initial, negative outcome is clearly tied to a breach of fiduciary duty can your attorney be successful.
If you need a legal malpractice attorney
If you believe you have suffered damages due to legal malpractice by your attorney, you must hire a personal injury attorney with experience in the area of legal malpractice. Legal malpractice cases rarely settle out of court, so as you perform your due diligence in search for a lawyer to try your case, make sure that the lawyer you hire has trial experience in the courtroom.
R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.