Californians who seek help from attorneys for their legal disputes are sometimes dissatisfied with the outcomes of their cases. Simply being unhappy with how a claim turned out does not necessarily mean that the attorney engaged in legal malpractice. Instead, to prevail in a legal malpractice claim, the plaintiffs must be able to prove each of the elements.
Legal malpractice involves more than simply providing legal services that fall below the standard of legal services that a reasonable attorney in the same area would provide in similar circumstances. That is simply the first element of a legal malpractice claim. If the plaintiff cannot prove the other three elements, he or she will not have valid grounds to file a legal malpractice lawsuit.
In addition to departing from the standard of professional care expected of attorneys, the lawyer’s breach of the duty must also have been the proximate cause of the economic losses that were sustained by the plaintiff. In addition, the plaintiffs must also be able to prove but-for causation. This means that the unfavorable outcome would not have occurred but for the attorney’s negligence. For example, losing a personal injury case at trial does not necessarily mean that the attorney engaged in legal malpractice. However, if the attorney failed to file the client’s valid personal injury claim within the required statute of limitations, the client might have grounds to file a claim for legal malpractice.
The final element that the plaintiff must prove is his or her damages. The damages must be ascertainable. For example, in the case of a personal injury claim that was not filed within the statute of limitations, calculating the hypothetical judgment that the plaintiff would likely have received can be enough for the damages element.
People who believe that their lawyers engaged in legal malpractice might benefit from consulting with experienced professional malpractice attorneys. The lawyers might review the facts and circumstances of what occurred and explain whether the claim has merits. If they agree to accept representation, they might advocate for their clients to try to recover damages to make them whole again and to hold the negligent attorney accountable for his or her actions.