There's nothing quite like finding out you can't take a case to trial because your attorney messed up. Unfortunately, that happens more than you may think. New, inexperienced attorneys may make errors that impact your case, or you may find an older attorney doesn't take your case as seriously as he or she should. Any attorney could make serious errors that result in your being unable to obtain the compensation you were expecting from your case.
Attorneys have to keep your case confidential, and you have a right to know what's happening whenever you ask. You shouldn't have to wait weeks to hear back from your attorney and you should be able to check on the amount you're being charged against the hours the attorney has worked.
What constitutes legal malpractice?
Attorneys can make a variety of errors that could lead to your losing out. For example, an attorney could fail to represent you competently and make mistakes that lose an otherwise winnable case. An attorney could act carelessly or not take your case seriously. He or she could speak out of turn or say something the breaches your right to confidentiality.
You need to show that the attorney's errors led to injury or harm coming to you. For example, you lost the case and suffered financial losses as a result.
Legal malpractice may also come in the form of excess charges. Some attorneys "milk the clock," adding extra hours on to the charges you pay. For example, an attorney may charge you for an entire hour even though he or she only worked 15 minutes. Make sure you're clear about how the attorney charges before you choose an attorney, so you aren't surprised by a bill that is much higher than expected.
What should you do if you suspect malpractice?
If you believe that you have lost a case, been unable to go to court, been charged too much or struggled to get into contact because of your attorney's negligence, you may have a case of legal malpractice on your hands. You need to speak with another attorney to discuss the possibility.
When you do this, it's obvious that you may be wary of working with another attorney. To prevent yourself from falling victim a second time, work with someone who has many positive reviews. Do your research. Find an attorney who has been working in law for a significant amount of time and who has a good rate of cases won.
Not all attorneys are bad, and the few who are put people's lives on the line due to their mistakes. It's important that those who don't take the job seriously do face the repercussions of their actions.