Can I Sue My Lawyer For Negligence?
Like all professionals, lawyers owe their clients a duty of care.
And like all professionals, sometimes lawyers make mistakes.
If you believe your lawyer has made a mistake on your case which has caused you to suffer damages, you can sue the lawyer for malpractice in order to obtain the compensation they should have gotten you in your case.
If you are considering suing your lawyer for negligence, ask the following questions before contacting a Connecticut legal malpractice lawyer:
What Standard of Care Must a Lawyer Meet?
Lawyers are not required to be perfect. They aren’t even required to win your case. Instead, lawyers must use the care, skill, and diligence that other lawyers in the community commonly possess.
Often, you will need another lawyer to provide expert testimony about whether your lawyer used the necessary care and skill. When negligent lawyers fall below this standard of care, they have committed legal malpractice.
What are Some Examples of Legal Malpractice?
Malpractice cases are very fact specific. A lot depends on what the lawyer knew or should have known.
However, we tend to see common mistakes that lawyers make over and over, including:
- Inaccurate billing
- Missed deadlines
- Failing to communicate with the client
- Settling a lawsuit without the client’s consent
- Giving inaccurate legal advice
- Stealing or losing money or property that belongs to the client
- Incompetently drafting legal documents that do not protect your rights
If you suspect that your lawyer made a negligent mistake that has harmed you, you may have a legal malpractice case.
Have I Suffered an Injury?
In order to have a successful legal malpractice case, it is not enough to say your lawyer screwed up. Additionally, you must have suffered damages.
Typically, injured clients suffer financial losses as a result of legal malpractice.
For example, your lawyer might have missed a deadline in your car accident case, leading to your case being dismissed. Had the lawyer properly filed your paperwork, you would have been able to pursue compensation for the injuries you suffered in the collision. In a legal malpractice lawsuit, you can ask for the compensation you would have received but for your lawyer’s professional negligence.
Realize that the courts do not entertain legal malpractice cases just to tell lawyers they are bad at their jobs. However, you can always file a complaint with the state’s grievance committee if you think your lawyer is unethical.
If you think your lawyer has committed a crime, you can also call the police to investigate.
What Do I Have to Prove?
Establishing a claim of legal malpractice is complex and varies from case to case. The following criteria establish a negligence claim.
The existence of an attorney-client relationship establishes a duty of care. Typically, a verbal or written agreement between the parties exhibits an attorney-client relationship. A duty of care requires an attorney to use the same care, skill, and diligence possessed by other lawyers in their community under similar circumstances. Suing a lawyer for professional negligence may require expert witnesses to determine what standard of care existed in your particular case.
A breach occurs when a lawyer fails to exercise reasonable care in your representation. For example, if the standard of care includes filing pleadings on time and your attorney misses an important deadline, they will have breached the standard of care.
Proving that, but for the attorney’s negligence, you would have obtained a more favorable settlement or outcome establishes causation. In other words, the harm you suffer must follow directly from the attorney’s negligence. A lawyer is not required to win your case, so the fact that you lost is not enough to establish causation. If evidence suggests that you were likely to lose your case even without the attorney’s breach, that may substantially weaken your malpractice claim.
Damages in a negligence malpractice claim are quantified by what was recovered and what would have been recovered but for the attorney’s negligence.
A typical example of negligence occurs when an attorney fails to file a case before the statute of limitations expires. Missing the deadline bars the client from filing a claim. In their malpractice claim, the client must prove that they would have won their case if it was filed on time. Proof of the amount they would have won in the case and a collectible judgment is required.
What Evidence Should I Collect?
Before pursuing a legal malpractice case, pull together all relevant documents and information.
Collect communications between you and your lawyer as well as information about the case that led you to hire the attorney in the first place.
For example, if you hired a lawyer to draft a marital separation agreement, find your copy of the agreement. Additionally, your lawyer is required to maintain a copy of your entire file, and give you notice before they destroy it. If you have a legal malpractice case you should obtain your file or hire an attorney who will obtain it for you.
Speak with a Legal Malpractice Lawyer in Hartford, Connecticut
Legal malpractice cases are complicated. There are not many legal malpractice lawyers, and if they do, very few have the experience of our firm.
If you suspect that your lawyer has made a mistake that has harmed you, you may have a legal malpractice case.
The dedicated attorneys at Stanger Stanfield Law understand how devastating it can be when a negligent attorney fails to provide you with the level of care you deserve. Our firm is dedicated to preserving your rights and upholding the standard of care expected in the legal profession.