Legal malpractice claims arise for a variety of complex reasons. Primarily, they are a result of a client feeling as though their previous case was treated without the level of expertise and competence that they had been led to expect when hiring that legal representation. In some circumstances, issues can arise when your attorney fails to contact you for extended periods of time, sends you bad checks, or even chooses to settle your case without consulting you first.
All lawyers are bound under the standards of the bar association of their state, and if your lawyer did not meet those standards, you could have a valid claim for malpractice. Keep in mind however, that it is likely your attorney who will attempt to defend himself against your allegations, which means that when you file a malpractice claim, you will waive the attorney-client privilege. This is something that you must clearly understand before you open this door.
Perhaps though, one of the most common examples of legal malpractice comes in the form of breach of contract.
What is Breach of Contract?
If you hired an attorney to represent you in court and then found that your attorney failed to follow the specific terms that were laid out within the contract held between the two of you for the duration of the case, then this could mean that your attorney has breached contract. Sometimes, a breach of contract can involve an attorney failing to research appropriately for a given case, failing to file an action or lien, as well as a number of other situations.
In order for your legal malpractice claim to have appropriate merit, you will need to determine whether your attorney’s breach was the reason that your case did not go as according to plan. For example, if you would have received a higher settlement, without a doubt, if only your attorney had filed an agreement in a timely fashion, you may have the grounds to sue for legal malpractice.
If you are claiming that the way the attorney represented you was the breach in contract, you will need to prove that you would have won your entire case if you had a more competent lawyer.
Was the Breach Foreseeable and Proximate?
To make your legal case more effective, the breach your attorney made must have been the proximate and foreseeable cause of the damages that were done to you. The term “proximate cause” refers to the harm that is reasonably foreseeable and connected to the action that is being attributed to it.
For example, if an attorney discloses information that is vital to your case, it is foreseeable that this information could find its way to opposing counsel and hurt your case results. This is certainly the case if the opposition is monitoring your attorney and the information was released carelessly. This information should be kept between you and your attorney until your attorney decides to disclose this information in court.
It’s important to recognize that cases of legal malpractice are often incredibly difficult to win. This is because you must prove not only that you had a contract with your attorney that was breached; but you must also prove that you would have been entitled to monetary damages in your original case should you have been represented more appropriately.
For help and guidance, contact the legal experts at Makarem & Associates, either via email at [email protected] or by phone at310.312.0299. Ron Makarem is a certified Legal Malpractice Specialist by the California State Bar.