If My Attorney Messed Up My Case, What Can I Do?
When legal representation goes awry, accident victims may find themselves at a loss for what to do next. As a client, you have rights, and your attorney has a duty of care towards you. If you feel that your attorney is not fulfilling their responsibilities or if you have concerns about their performance, it’s crucial to seek help immediately from our law firm.
While lawyers are generally relied upon to handle litigation, settlements, and lawsuits competently, there are instances when they fall short of expected standards. When you turn to a lawyer for assistance, you trust that they will provide the necessary help. However, what are your rights when your attorney botches your case?
If you have lost faith in your attorney and are contemplating legal action for malpractice, there are important points you should be aware of. Firstly, not all attorneys are equal. At Garrity Traina, our personal injury lawyers can assist you in understanding your rights after experiencing poor representation. We can help you navigate the process if your lawyer is dragging their feet or if you need to terminate your current attorney-client relationship.
Can You Sue Your Lawyer for Legal Malpractice?
Bringing a successful legal malpractice case can be challenging due to the high burden of proof required. You must demonstrate that your attorney failed to exercise the same level of skill and care that other lawyers would in similar circumstances. Therefore, winning a malpractice case against your attorney necessitates establishing four key elements:
- Duty: Your attorney was obligated to act competently as a licensed professional.
- Breach: Your attorney breached their duty towards you through negligence, mistakes, or failing to fulfill their contractual obligations.
- Causation: The attorney’s actions directly caused you harm.
- Damages: The harm you suffered resulted in measurable financial losses.
These common causes of legal malpractice often stem from troubled attorney-client relationships, characterized by poor communication, dishonesty, incompetence, subpar legal work, and billing disputes. To provide more specificity, the American Bar Association (ABA) has compiled data on the most frequently alleged errors leading to legal malpractice claims.
Common Issues Resulting in Lawsuits Against Attorneys
Out of the 24 legal claims analyzed, the aforementioned problems are among the most prevalent issues prompting lawsuits. They include, but are not limited to:
- Inadequate understanding and application of the law
- Errors in strategic planning
- Insufficient discovery or investigation
- Failure to file necessary documents
- Failure to obtain client consent
- Fraudulent behavior
If you believe your attorney has violated your attorney-client privilege in any manner mentioned, you may have grounds to sue for malpractice.
When filing a lawsuit against your attorney, it is crucial to seek legal representation promptly. Building a strong case requires substantial evidence of legal malpractice, and an experienced attorney can help you gather the necessary proof. Ensuring you have the required evidence is pivotal in determining the viability of your case.
Watch Out for Statutes of Limitations on Legal Malpractice
In most states, there are statutes of limitations governing the filing of legal malpractice claims. It is essential to be mindful of these deadlines. Failing to meet the deadline may result in the inability to seek compensation you rightfully deserve. At Garrity Traina, our legal malpractice lawyers will guide you through the process, ensuring you never miss critical deadlines. We possess comprehensive knowledge of filing malpractice lawsuits and will vigorously advocate for your rights at every stage.
Your Rights as a Client
As a client of a lawyer, you are entitled to certain basic rights. These include effective and timely communication with your attorney, their competence in understanding and addressing your legal issues, ethical completion of work, and adherence to agreed-upon fees. In summary, your lawyer should:
- Provide guidance regarding your legal situation
- Keep you informed about your case’s progress
- Offer insights into the likely outcomes of your case
- Allow you to make informed decisions
- Provide cost estimates for your case
- Assist you in evaluating the costs and benefits associated with your case
- Maintain regular communication with you
- Inform you of any changes, delays, or setbacks
- Provide the information necessary for you to make well-informed decisions
- Prepare you for case proceedings, including depositions and trial preparation
Common Questions About Lawyer Malpractice Lawsuits
Here are answers to common questions clients may have concerning their lawyers:
If I’ve lost confidence in my lawyer, can I sue them for negligence?
Clients have the right to terminate their attorney-client relationship at any time. However, pursuing legal action against your lawyer should be considered only if they have violated your rights or committed malpractice. It is generally advisable to seek new representation from another attorney who expresses interest in your case.
If I fired my lawyer but need my information back, can I retrieve it?
To obtain your documents for an upcoming case, it is crucial to formally request them or sign an authorization allowing your new attorney to request them on your behalf. Despite any fee disputes or outstanding payments, you are entitled to your information.
Is my lawyer obligated to keep our communications confidential?
Yes, your personal injury lawyer has a professional duty to maintain the confidentiality of your information unless you provide consent to disclose it. Communications between you and your attorney should be treated as confidential and should not be shared without your permission.
In personal injury cases, clients often must divulge sensitive information to their attorneys. It is expected that lawyers will keep this information confidential, barring a few rare exceptions. Your attorney’s failure to respect the confidentiality agreement can be grounds for legal action and may be considered legal malpractice.
If my lawyer fails to return my phone calls, is this negligence?
Although inadequate communication can be frustrating, it does not necessarily warrant a malpractice claim. However, persistent unresponsiveness from your lawyer may indicate underlying issues. It is advisable to address the situation by sending a letter, email, or fax explaining your concerns and requesting a meeting or call to resolve the communication breakdown. If these attempts fail, and you discover evidence of procrastination or rudeness, consider terminating your lawyer’s services or filing a formal complaint with the appropriate Bar Association.
If my lawyer is taking an excessive amount of time or appears to have stopped working on my case, is this grounds for malpractice?
The longer your lawyer remains uncommunicative about your case, the higher the likelihood of it constituting malpractice. As previously mentioned, promptly contacting your attorney through written correspondence is essential to rectify the situation. If your lawyer continues to neglect your case, you have the right to terminate their services and seek help from a new attorney who can salvage your case.
If my case is dismissed from the court’s docket due to my lawyer’s inaction, can I sue them for damages?
In such situations, it is possible to take legal action against your attorney. You would need to prove that their actions, or lack thereof, directly caused financial harm by denying you the compensation you were rightfully entitled to. Winning a malpractice case in this scenario requires establishing both your lawyer’s ineffective handling of the case and the likelihood of winning and obtaining damages had another attorney been in charge.
Can I sue my lawyer if I receive a settlement amount lower than what they promised?
While disappointing, a lower settlement than expected does not automatically warrant a malpractice claim. However, you have the right to request your file from your lawyer and seek a second opinion on your case. If another attorney believes that you are being advised to settle for an unjustly low amount, it may be wise to switch legal representation before accepting a settlement.
If my lawyer settles my case without my consent, can I sue them?
Yes, you can. To pursue a successful case against your lawyer, you would need to demonstrate that they settled without your authorization, resulting in inadequate compensation and a failure to adequately represent your interests. Alternatively, you could establish a systematic lack of communication.
What recourse do I have if I receive an unexpectedly large bill from my lawyer?
If you believe that the billed amount exceeds the scope of your agreement, do not pay it without question. Discuss the matter with your lawyer, asking for an explanation of the charges. If you disagree with the bill, you can request a reduction. If your lawyer refuses to accommodate your request, consider filing for non-binding fee arbitration with a state or local bar association. Arbitration involves an impartial third party who can make a decision regarding the charges. It may be binding or non-binding, giving you the option to reject the arbitrator’s assessment. Contact our local association to learn more.
These responses address just a few of the questions clients commonly have about their rights when seeking legal assistance. If you have further inquiries, please feel free to reach out to our offices, where we can provide guidance on your legal rights.
Seek Assistance from an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
At Garrity Traina, we understand the importance of the trust our clients place in our experienced professionals. That’s why we are committed to offering personalized service and maintaining accessibility.
All claims are handled by our expert lawyers who specialize in their respective fields. You will never have to deal with inexperienced paralegals, case managers, or worry about untrained interns making decisions about your case. Whether you require legal representation for personal injury claims or assistance with a legal malpractice case, we are here to support you.
If you or someone you know needs legal advice regarding a case in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Clearwater personal injury attorneys at Garrity Traina. You can reach us at 727-451-6900.
Visit Garrity Traina for more information.
*The information provided is based on extensive research and the collective experience of Attorney Matthew Dolman and other injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, who possess a combined 90 plus years of experience practicing personal injury law in Florida. Matthew Dolman himself has been serving the Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas for the past fifteen (15) years.