Most Common Legal Malpractice Claims
While any attorney could conceivably be sued for legal malpractice, personal injury attorneys are the most likely to be sued—except following a recession when real estate attorneys take the number one spot. Some of the most common complaints clients have regarding their attorneys—and whether these complaints amount to legal malpractice–include:
• The attorney ignores the client and his or her case for extended periods of time—could be considered legal malpractice, depending on whether there was a legitimate reason for the lack of communication and whether that lack of communication caused the client financial losses.
• The case is dismissed because the attorney failed to meet crucial deadlines—could definitely be grounds for legal malpractice.
• The attorney recommends a settlement, which is far less than his or her original estimate of the case—probably not legal malpractice. This is more likely caused by an attorney who wanted the case and inflated the settlement estimate to get it.
• The attorney settles the case without client authorization—could definitely be considered legal malpractice, although the client will need to prove the settlement his or her attorney entered into was for far less than it was worth.
• A client sees his or her attorney socializing with the opponent’s attorney—not malpractice or breach of ethics, so long as neither attorney repeats something said by a client in confidence.
• A client suspects his or her attorney has misused retainer money—if true, definitely legal malpractice.
In order to definitively prove legal malpractice, it must be first shown that an attorney client relationship existed. This can usually be shown through an agreement or contract. This contract or agreement means the attorney had a duty of care to their client. It must be shown that duty of care was breached by the attorney, and that breach of duty of care resulted in financial losses for the client. A large study of the eight top commercial insurance companies showed the following regarding legal malpractice:
• As noted, personal injury and real estate legal malpractice claims comprise the majority of legal malpractice claims.
• Almost 40% of legal malpractice claims involve some type of administrative error, which can include missing the statute of limitations or missing a crucial filing date.
• One of the most frequently cited errors against attorneys in a legal malpractice claim is a failure to know or properly apply the law. Nearly 14% of all legal malpractice claims fall in this category.
• The area of legal malpractice claims which rose the most were attorney errors, including lost files, documents or evidence and procrastination in performance.
• About 14% of all legal malpractice claims fall under “client relations,” and include failure to obtain consent, improper withdrawal by the attorney and failure to follow client instruction.
• Intentional wrongs by attorneys amount to about 10% of all legal malpractice claims and include fraud, libel, slander, abuse of process, and violation of civil rights.
Lack of communication is a common grievance aired by clients of attorneys in most all types of practices. In a world which includes cell phones, internet, texting and e-mail, it can be hard to believe there are communication errors. A client who feels they are being ignored should write a letter to their attorney inquiring whether there is a legitimate reason for the communication problems. If this lack of communication leads to missed deadlines and dismissal of the case, then the client may want to speak to a legal malpractice attorney. If you feel your rights have already been violated by your original attorney, it is important to speak to a lawyer who is experienced in legal malpractice and committed to protecting your future.
Contact Legal Malpractice Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our legal malpractice lawyers understand how devastating it can be to be a victim of legal malpractice. As experienced malpractice lawyers, we have represented individuals and small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. If you believe your attorney committed legal malpractice while representing you, it could be in your best interests to speak to a lawyer who is experienced in legal malpractice cases and will ensure your rights are protected.
Our Washington DC legal malpractice attorneys work tirelessly from the very start to protect victims of legal malpractice. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or 1-888-625-6645 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.
The legal malpractice attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and other locations throughout Maryland and Virginia.