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Legal Malpractice Overview
According to the American Bar Association, approximately 6% of all Washington D.C. attorneys will find themselves the target of a legal malpractice suit during any given year. Since the 1980’s, legal malpractice lawsuits have risen steadily. When a lawyer’s negligence or misconduct leads to a failed lawsuit or a reduced settlement, businesses and individuals often have no other recourse than to file a legal malpractice lawsuit.
For the past three years in particular, real estate lawyers have been the primary targets for legal malpractice claims. Some of the awards for legal malpractice claims have been in the millions of dollars. This fact persuades many law firms to settle in malpractice cases rather than leave the decision in the hands of the jury. While you might think most malpractice claims are against the truly huge firms—with suitably deep pockets—in fact, more than 65% of all legal malpractice claims are brought against firms with five or fewer attorneys.
Which Attorneys Get Sued for Legal Malpractice Most Often?
Although real estate lawyers have definitely taken a hit over the past few years, overall, legal malpractice claims against personal injury lawyers usually comprise about 30% of the total, with plaintiffs being responsible for about 2/3rds of those claims and defendants responsible for the remaining 1/3. Barring the aftermath of a recession, legal malpractice claims against real estate attorneys comprises nearly 17% of the total, family law attorneys about 10%, and estate, trust and probate attorneys about 9%. The remaining 33% of legal malpractice claims are divided among all other types of practices.
What Activities are most Likely to Trigger a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit?
You may wonder just what gets attorneys sued for legal malpractice. Nearly a full quarter of legal malpractice lawsuits are triggered by a problem associated with preparation, filing or transmittal of documents. This can include missed deadlines or mistakes made in the preparation of the documents themselves. Another 20% of all legal malpractice lawsuits originate from a pretrial or prehearing, 15% originate during a specific action or proceeding, another 15% from what the client believes to be unsound advice, and 10% originate from a settlement or negotiation. Legal malpractice claims can also arise when:
• An attorney fails to obtain client consent for a specific course of action;
• The attorney improperly withdraws from the case;
• The attorney has a clear conflict of interest;
• The attorney engages in malicious prosecution;
• There are serious, adverse tax consequences as a result of the attorney’s advice;
• The attorney has a history or poor communication with the client, and
• The attorney commits a civil rights violation against the client.
Not Every Mistake Equals Legal Malpractice
It’s important to realize that not every mistake made by an attorney will reach the level of legal malpractice. Legal malpractice may be claimed when an attorney handles a case inappropriately, whether from negligence or with a clear intent to cause harm and damages to the client.
Contact Legal Malpractice Lawyers
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our legal malpractice lawyers understand how devastating it can be when an attorney misses a deadline or fails to present your case accurately. 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 in a case, 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 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.