You go to court with a legal team that seems confident. You think you’re going to win. However, the judge rules against you or the jury votes against you, and you lose the case.
Instantly, you start thinking it was legal malpractice. How could your team possibly lose that case? It’s going to have a massive impact on your life. Surely, this is their fault and you need to make them compensate you for it. Right?
Possibly, but remember that just losing a case doesn’t mean it’s legal malpractice, just as a patient passing away in the hospital doesn’t automatically mean it’s medical malpractice. Just as doctors sometimes do all they can and lose a patient, so lawyers sometimes do all they can and lose a case. It’s not malpractice simply because you did not get the outcome you wanted or expected.
So, how do you know if it was malpractice or not? Start by asking these three questions:
- Was there negligence on the part of your legal team? For instance, maybe your lawyer did not prepare for the case or didn’t contact you during it to get your side of the story and gather evidence. When they got to court, they were woefully unprepared and did not give you the defense you deserved. You lost because of their negligence, not because they did all they could and still lost the case. They should have done more and you paid them to do more. They made clear errors that any other reasonable legal professional would say were unnecessary.
- Did the damage stem from those mistakes? Once you know your legal team made clear errors, you also have to see if you lost the case because of those errors. There are instances where the mistakes, as obvious as they were, did not actually impact the outcome. You need to know that the mistakes existed and that the lost case happened because of those mistakes.
- Would you say those damages qualify as significant? Maybe you won the case but you hoped for a bit more; that may not be enough for a malpractice claim. In the example above, though, you directly lost the case. You suffered significant damage — it may be financial, it may be damage to your reputation, it may be harm to your career or it could include jail time — because of the mistakes. That’s what you plan to seek compensation for.
As you can see, just losing a case you expected to win doesn’t mean it was legal malpractice, but it is a red flag that may mean it’s time to look into it more closely. Be sure you understand your legal rights and the options you have.