When you have problems that require the expertise of a lawyer, you hire one because you believe they can help you. But what if they end up making things worse? Filing a legal malpractice suit can be an option.
How to Win a Malpractice Suit Against a Lawyer
To win a legal malpractice suit, you have to prove that your attorney erred in how they handled your case. Then you must show that those errors were the reason for your loss in the underlying case. The third requirement is establishing that you would have been able to collect from the defendant had you been successful with that underlying case.
Common Legal Malpractice (or Not) Scenarios
While there are a variety of scenarios that show how a client may consider – or not consider – suing their lawyer for legal malpractice, here are the most common:
Lawyer stops working on a case
The longer your lawyer stops working on your case, the guiltier they are of malpractice. However, it is important to act fast so you can see if the case is being handled properly or if it’s necessary to hire another lawyer.
Case dismissal due to lack of action from lawyer
This is definitely malpractice. However, aside from proving that your lawyer mishandled the case, you also need to show that winning the case would have let you collect a judgment.
Decreasing the settlement amount recommended
When your attorney reduces the recommended settlement amount, it can be discouraging but it’s not malpractice. It’s either they deliberately inflated the first estimate to get your business, or they found something that wasn’t there when you first presented your case, thus the reduction. In any case, you can always get a second opinion and switch lawyers if you think you must.
Lawyer settles without client’s approval
This is another unmistakable case of legal malpractice. A lawyer is never allowed to settle without the client’s approval. To succeed in this type of malpractice case, you have to establish that the amount your lawyer settled for is low than what your case is worth.
Opposing lawyers socializing
When two opposing attorneys interact – for instance, play golf or interact at a social event – there is no malpractice involved, until one attorney divulges confidential information about the client to the other attorney.
Lawyer on suspicion of misusing client’s money
When you suspect that your attorney is misusing your funds, report them right away to the regulatory office of your state attorney. If you are unsuccessful, you can consider suing for legal malpractice in order to recoup your money. This, when proven, is obviously a violation of your attorney’s duty to you as a client.