What is Legal Malpractice?
When a lawyer intentionally or negligently mishandles a case, resulting in injury to the client, legal malpractice may have occurred. A growing number of legal malpractice claims are brought each year by those who feel that their attorney’s representation harmed them in some way.
There are four elements, which must be proven for a successful outcome in a legal malpractice claim.
- Attorney-Client Relationship Existed: First, you are required to show that you had an attorney-client relationship between yourself and the attorney. Such a relationship exists when an attorney gives legal advice to another person.
- Attorney Acted Negligently: Secondly, you must prove your attorney either acted in a negligent manner or intended to bring you harm. Generally, when an attorney fails to exercise the level of diligence, care or skill as any other reasonable attorney would have, given the same circumstances, negligence may have occurred.
- You Suffered Injuries or Harm: Third, you must be able to show that your injuries or the harm you suffered, were the direct result of your attorney’s negligence.
- Your Case Would’ve Been Successful: Last, you have the burden of proof in that you must be able to prove to the court that if your attorney had not engaged in negligent or improper behavior, your case would have been successful. This last element can be difficult to prove, as it is hard to know whether a case would have been won had some issues been handled differently. If it is determined that your case would have been lost despite the actions of your attorney, then malpractice will not be admitted.
You are also bound by the statute of limitations; failure to file a claim within this specified period of time can prevent you from ever pursuing legal action against your attorney, no matter how egregious you believe his or her actions to be. Some of the most common types of legal malpractice include:
- Commingling trust account funds with the attorney’s personal funds
- Abuse or misuse of a your trust account
- Withdrawing from your representation improperly
- Inadequate research for your case
- Failure to know and apply the law
- Failure to communicate with you, including a failure to return your phone calls or emails
- Missing the statute of limitations deadline
- Failure to meet other court deadlines
- Conflict of interest
- Failure to provide you with a valid fee agreement
- Failure to inform you of unexpected or large expenses
- Settling a case without your agreement or authorization
- Refusing to accept court orders
- Settling your case too quickly, only as a means of obtaining attorney’s fees.
Potential Remedies for an Act of Legal Malpractice
If you believe you are a victim of legal malpractice, you have a number of ways in which to seek recovery, with the most common way being to file a civil lawsuit against the attorney. If your lawsuit is successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. You are also entitled to report the attorney to the state disciplinary board, or the state bar. Should you decide to file a lawsuit against your former attorney, you need and experienced, reputable attorney to assist you. At Peck, Hadfield, Baxter and Moore, we hold the members of our profession accountable, and we understand the impact such serious legal errors can have on your life.
Attorney Brandon J. Baxter represented a client whose prior attorney lost her personal injury lawsuit due to professional malpractice. The woman found her lawsuit had been dismissed because her original attorneys failed to deliver legal complaints in a timely manner. The statute of limitations ran out and it became impossible to recoup her losses. In this case Peck Hadfield attorneys convinced a Utah appeals court to reverse a prior decision to dismiss the woman’s lawsuit.
If you believe you were injured due to the actions of an unscrupulous attorney, contact Peck, Hadfield, Baxter and Moore at 435-787-9700. While our office may be located in Utah, our law firm has the size, resources, and experience needed to handle general litigation and legal malpractice cases throughout Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. Contact our Utah legal malpractice lawyers today for a free and private consultation. Call 435-787-9700 today. We are available to answer your questions and help you choose the legal path that is best for you.
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