When you hire an attorney, you do so with the idea that they'll provide guidance throughout the duration of your case. Unfortunately, just the same as any other type of professional, attorneys can and do make mistakes from time to time.
There's a difference between an attorney making a mistake that's easily corrected and legal malpractice. For example, a minor error may not have any impact on the final outcome of your case, such as if you're seeking compensation after a motor vehicle accident.
Conversely, legal malpractice is typically based on negligence, meaning that you need to prove the following elements:
- The attorney has a duty to provide you with skillful representation
- The attorney breached this duty
- The attorney caused some form of harm or injury
- The harm or injury resulted in a financial loss
It's not always easy to pinpoint legal malpractice, especially since you hired an attorney to help you with a legal issue. Here are some of the most common forms:
- Conflict of interest: This is when an attorney has a conflict as a result of competing duties.
- Commingling: This occurs when an attorney combines your funds with their own. This typically results in the breach of fiduciary relationship, which is a form of malpractice.
- Neglect: This is any form of disregard of duty, such as carelessness associated with filing court documents in a timely manner.
What should you do next?
Proving legal malpractice is a difficult task, so it's important to collect as much information as possible along the way. For example, any evidence you have that's related to the four elements above should be saved for future use.
If you have clear evidence that legal malpractice occurred, you can then turn your attention to proving clear causation. You must be able to show that you would have won your case if your attorney had acted in the appropriate manner.
From there, you can then consult with a legal malpractice attorney to better understand your rights and the next steps in the process. If you want to learn more about legal malpractice, including your rights and how to protect them, visit the many pages of our website and blog dedicated to this subject matter.