When you hire an attorney, you rightfully expect to work with a competent professional you trust.
Sometimes, though, attorneys make imprudent mistakes that lead to unwanted and even costly outcomes.
If your attorney significantly mishandled your lawsuit, you may consider suing them for legal malpractice.
But before you hire a legal malpractice attorney, it’s helpful to understand how legal malpractice claims work.
How Do Legal Malpractice Claims Work?
In a legal malpractice suit, a plaintiff’s goal is to recover legal malpractice verdicts and settlements that reflect what the plaintiff allegedly lost because of their attorney’s negligent actions.
To prove legal negligence, a plaintiff must be able to prove four basic things.
Duty of Care
First, a plaintiff must show that the attorney owed them a duty of care. This is often reflected by the representation or engagement agreement. A verbal agreement may also imply it.
Second, a plaintiff must show that the attorney breached their duty. This may occur when an attorney acts negligently, makes serious mistakes, or fails to do what they agreed to do.
A plaintiff may demonstrate negligence by showing the attorney’s failure to use the care, skill, or diligence that other attorneys would have used in similar cases in the same or similar situation.
Third, a plaintiff must prove causation. Essentially, a plaintiff must show that they would have obtained a better outcome but for the attorney’s negligence.
Fourth, a plaintiff must prove they’ve suffered damages. One example is if an attorney’s missteps cause opposing counsel to lower their settlement offer.
Another is if a plaintiff’s case got dismissed because their attorney missed an important deadline.
Where the underlying reason for filing a malpractice suit was botched litigation, a plaintiff must also prove that the previous litigation would have had more favorable results if the attorney had not committed legal malpractice.
In this way, a plaintiff often must support two cases. They must prove the legal malpractice case and the underlying case in which the attorney committed malpractice.
Even if you succeed in some capacity in your initial case, you could still bring a legal malpractice lawsuit.
However, you must prove that your compensation or relief would have been better but for your attorney’s actions.
It is also important to remember that it is not necessarily malpractice just because your attorney loses your case.
An attorney’s mistake, however large it may appear, may cause a client to question their competence. But attorneys are entitled to a certain amount of deference when it comes to their judgment.
This means that an attorney may make strategic decisions in a moment that only seem like mistakes in hindsight. These mistakes are not uncommon and do not usually amount to negligence.
Generally, they will not support a legal malpractice case.
When Does a Bad Job Amount to Malpractice?
Common issues that lead to malpractice claims include administrative errors and missing critical dates, like the statute of limitations or the deadline for filing court documents.
Issues may also arise when an attorney misuses a client’s finances, fails to follow instructions, or acts on aspects of the case without a client’s consent.
Failure to communicate may also present issues. It’s not uncommon for attorneys, especially ones that represent numerous clients simultaneously, to exhibit poor communication skills.
On the other hand, attorneys that consistently fail to answer client phone calls, emails, or messages, or fail to update clients on the case progress and vital developments, may be guilty of negligence.
Attorneys may also be guilty of malpractice when they fail to properly investigate a client’s legal actions.
Generally, legal malpractice is hard to prove. Because attorney negligence can be nuanced, legal malpractice lawsuit settlements vary wildly.
For this reason, retaining an experienced legal malpractice attorney is crucial to obtaining the highest settlement amount available to you.
Call Tenge Law Firm, LLC for a Free Legal Malpractice Consultation
If you’ve lost confidence in your attorney and are considering suing for malpractice, Tenge Law Firm, LLC can help.
Our team has provided relentless, thorough representation for legal malpractice victims and their families throughout Colorado for thirty years.
Because our boutique law firm takes on only a few cases at a time, we pride ourselves on focusing our full attention on you and your case’s unique requirements.
We promise you one-on-one representation and a legal strategy tailored to your distinctive malpractice circumstances.