Grounds for legal malpractice cases
Legal malpractice applies when an attorney's negligent behavior has resulted in injury or harm to their client. A lawyer is hired to deliver competent and professional service to a client; when they fail to perform at the level that is expected of the average attorney, their actions could be defined as legal malpractice and become the basis for a lawsuit against them.
Proving a legal malpractice case is rarely clear-cut. The process is lengthy and involved, and there is a time limit, or statute of limitations, which creates even more pressure. If you believe that you have grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit, consider how the expertise of legal malpractice lawyers can improve your chances of success.
Legal Malpractice Laws
Legal malpractice cases rest on one of three theories of liability: negligence, breach of fiduciary duty or breach of contract. A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when a lawyer acts in their own interest instead of their client's interest, resulting in a negative effect on the client's case. A breach of the contract that defines the lawyer-client relationship seems to constitute malpractice, but there are many more elements at play that can determine whether or not a lawyer's behavior ultimately resulted in the loss of a case and/or harm to the client.
What qualifies as legal malpractice varies according to state laws, but there are a few elements that apply to most lawsuits. To begin, you must be able to prove the existence of your relationship with your attorney—this is the basis for all legal malpractice cases, and if you cannot prove that you had hired the lawyer and entered into a legal relationship, then you do not have a case. Once the relationship has been verified, you need to show how the attorney was negligent, how this negligence led to your injury and that the injury was undeniably caused by the negligence.
Legal Malpractice Lawsuits
In some cases, it is easy to prove negligent action. Stolen funds, failure to provide defense or to meet deadlines are evidently careless actions; in other cases, the "standard of care" is less clear and must be established by an expert witness before you can describe how the lawyer violated that standard. Proving the negligent action is not the end of the line—you will then need to show how it was responsible for your suffering.
If the negligent action occurred while the lawyer was representing you in a case, can you prove that the action undoubtedly led to the loss of that case? This certainly complicates things, as you not only have to prove the lawyer's error but also that you would definitely have won your case otherwise. The "case within a case" scenario is essentially two trials in one, which will likely require the tact and expertise of an experienced malpractice lawyer.
Legal malpractice lawsuits can involve aspects that are often difficult to track and prove, such as the lawyer's intention and changing laws. The attorney-client privilege and the "attorney judgment rule" can further complicate things, but legal malpractice attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle the numerous elements of a malpractice case.