Many people get a lawyer because they want to sue an opposing party. But sometimes, when the lawyer that they hire doesn’t do a good job, they end up suing him or her instead. A few years ago, Law Practice Magazine published an article that showed a long list of what the top alleged malpractice allegations were in the United States. Number three was inadequate investigation of cases, number two were mistakes in preparing for court, and what ended up at the top spot was failing to apply the law to arguments during trial. The truth is plaintiffs and defendants complain about their lawyers all the time, especially if they are sore after losing their cases. But what really qualifies as legal malpractice?
Let’s say that you are out and about on leisure time and spot your lawyer and your opponents’ playing golf together. Initially, you would probably be infuriated with thoughts of your attorney laughing and lollygagging with the enemy. You may feel deceived, but your lawyer isn’t doing anything illegal. He or she has the complete right to converse and spend time with anyone they want, including another lawyer who they happen to be in a courtroom battle with. They could have been old law school buddies for all you know. As long as a lawyer isn’t talking about anything that you confided in them about, then they aren’t breaking the law.
Another commonly mistaken malpractice violation is when a case gets thrown out of court. Yes, this can quite possibly be a situation where you’d be right in suing your lawyer, but it’s not an automatic sign that they were wrong. You would definitely need great legal representation to show that the suit getting discarded was their fault. Your main challenges would be in proving that (1) your hired attorney mishandled the case, and (2) if they had done things correctly you absolutely would have won in court.
There are four things that you really have to verify when suing your lawyer. For example, you would have to prove that there were financial damages if, say, you lost your case as a result of your lawyers actions. You’d also have to show that what they did caused you to suffer financially, or prove causation. This would be if any unexpected expenses came up as a result of their alleged malpractice (like if you had to pay another lawyer more money to finish up a case that they walked out on), and you accumulated a huge, agonizing debt because of it. In addition to these two things you’d have to prove that the lawyer acted unprofessionally and owed you a duty to do so, and that they were negligent in completing (or that they breached) that particular obligation.
Some concrete things that your attorney may do that qualify as malpractice are (1) if they settle your case without you first telling them to do so, (2) they spontaneously stop working on your lawsuit, or (3) if you paid a retainer (money in advance) to them and they steal or misuse those funds. At first thought, battling an attorney in court may be intimidating. But, as long as you seek and find outstanding court representation there is no need to feel this way. Before you start looking for a lawyer, though, the first thing to do is complain to your state’s attorney regulatory agency. California is a place that takes this seriously, so you should get a fast response. Next, contact the experienced Legal Malpractice Attorneys at Makarem & Associates at 310.312.0299. You may also us at [email protected] for your best chances at getting reimbursed.