Legal malpractice is defined as negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, or breach of contract by a lawyer that causes harm to the client. In order to win a legal malpractice case the victim must show that the attorney’s acts were not merely the result of bad strategy, but that they were the result of mistakes that no reasonable attorney would ever make.
Legal malpractice also happens when an attorney breaches a fiduciary duty to the client. A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party’s interests. A lawyer who acts in his own interest instead of the interests of his client, and to the detriment of the client, is breaching his fiduciary duty to the client. Legal malpractice may also arise when an attorney breaches a contract between the client and the attorney.
Some people think that just because a case is lost that it must be the lawyer’s fault and they must have somehow committed legal malpractice. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not every single mistake made by an attorney is considered legal malpractice. Legal malpractice occurs only when an attorney handles a case makes a mistake due to negligence or with intent to harm and causes damages to a client.
Again, it’s important to note that to win a legal malpractice lawsuit you will need to prove an attorney-client relationship between you and the lawyer, a breach of the duty to provide skillful and competent representation, causation, and a financial loss.
The three most common categories of legal negligence cases in the U.S are attorney negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.
Legal malpractice claims are founded on the theory of negligence. For this reason, legal malpractice is also called professional negligence. To establish a cause of action for legal malpractice in California, you must prove the following elements:
- Duty – That the attorney owed you a duty
- Breach of Duty – That the attorney breached that duty, and
- Causation – That the attorney’s breach of duty resulted in actual damages.
- Damages – You suffered damages as a result of the attorney’s breach of duty.
Some common examples of legal malpractice include:
- Outright fraud – when an attorney deliberately deceives those involved in legal processes to obtain unlawful gain
- Failing to file important court documents
- Failing to acknowledge court orders
- Failing to meet a filing or service deadline
- Failing to sue within the statute of limitations
- Mishandling funds
- Conflict of interest
- Failing to inform the client of large expenses that had not been discussed or agreed upon
- Settling a case without the client’s permission
- Failing to obtain client’s consent – If a lawyer does not obtain the consent of their client before proceeding with legal actions, it can cause some serious problems.
- Settling a case too quickly and for less than an adequate amount, usually with the intention of just quickly collecting attorney’s fees
- Failing to apply the law correctly to a client’s situation
- Inadequate Discovery/Investigation – It’s an attorney’s duty to investigate their client’s case and uncover all the pertinent details that they can.
If you think you’ve been harmed by your attorney’s negligence, Don Chairez can help you. Don Chairez will examine your case, analyze your case, and give you good advice on how you should move forward. Contact Don Chairez today.
Recent Legal Malpractice Cases in the News:
Summary: A San Diego immigration attorney is failing to perform important legal work for his clients and putting them at immediate risk of deportation, according to the State Bar of California. Christopher Macaraeg is accused of repeatedly missing court deadlines, prompting judges to dismiss his clients’ cases, State Bar trial attorneys say in a 13-page Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed Aug. 31.