Lawyers are human, too, and, as humans, they too make mistakes. Unfortunately, mistakes in the legal world can have adverse and possibly costly consequences for clients. If your attorney made a mistake that cost you the outcome of your case and then some, you may wonder if you can file a legal malpractice claim. The American Bar Association lists three basic questions you should ask yourself to determine if an attorney’s mistake justifies a lawsuit.
Did the attorney act negligently?
You know what they say: Hindsight is 20/20. Following the outcome of your case, it is easy to look back and say what your attorney should have done differently. However, when it comes to malpractice, there is no room for what-ifs. The judge will want to know if, when representing you, the attorney acted negligently and against your best interests. To determine this, he or she will assess your attorney’s actions and determine if said actions were in line with the community standard of care, or if they went against it. If your lawyer acted in a way that all other attorneys in the field would have advised against, he or she may be guilty of legal malpractice.
Did the malpractice result in damages?
Say your lawyer did act negligently, but you still obtained the outcome you wanted. Moreover, you did not accrue additional legal costs as a result of your attorney’s carelessness or lose any money. You do not have a malpractice claim. However, if your attorney’s errors caused you to lose your case, or if you lost a considerable amount of money because of them, you may have a viable malpractice claim.
How significant were the damages?
Even if you have a malpractice claim, it may not make sense for you to file a lawsuit. Proving legal malpractice is a costly endeavor, as, in addition to the cost of filing the suit, you will need to hire experts who can attest to the fact that your attorney’s conduct fell below the community standard. Before you proceed with your lawsuit, you want to make sure that the economics justify the cost of pursuing further litigation.