When an attorney fails to perform under ethical standards or code of conduct, they may be guilty of malpractice. It is important to remember that in California, a legal malpractice case may not be filed simply because you do not like the way your case was resolved. You must prove that your attorney acted outside of the code of ethics.
Breach of contract or negligence
In order for your attorney to be guilty of legal malpractice, there are certain criteria that must be met. These include:
- The attorney owed you a duty of competent representation.
- The attorney either acted carelessly or made a mistake that breached that duty.
- You were harmed by the breach of duty.
- You suffered financial loss because of that harm.
Understanding breach of duty
In order to prove that your attorney breached their duty or did not provide you with competent representation, you will need to show negligence. In some cases, looking back at the case will reveal that there was a breach of duty, whether in the form of a settlement offer that was not presented to you in a timely manner or a court form that was filed past a deadline. Although mistakes happen, if they caused you harm and that harm caused you to suffer financially, you may have a claim for legal malpractice.
Lack of damages
One key component to legal malpractice is that you must have suffered damages. Even if the attorney made a significant mistake, if you did not suffer any damage, you may not have a case. One of the most common reasons people file legal malpractice claims is when an attorney fails to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. Although this is an egregious error, you would have to prove that you would have won the case if it had been filed in a timely manner as well as how much you could have received in either a settlement or judgement and whether that judgement could be collected.
Legal malpractice can be difficult to prove, but if you believe that you have suffered from the negligence of an attorney, it’s important to get professional guidance. A lawyer may review your case and guide you through the process.