Regardless of the type of law an attorney practices, each has a duty to represent their clients with the utmost diligence, prudence and skill. If you believe your attorney failed to do just this for your situation, you may have a legal malpractice case on your hands.
Legal malpractice occurs when a legal professional breaches his or her duty to represent a client to the best of his or her ability. However, to have a valid claim, you must demonstrate that several other factors were present as well. A pamphlet from the Sacramento County Public Law Library shares the four elements the law requires you to prove to establish legal malpractice.
Elements of a legal malpractice claim
As with most other forms of negligence, the law requires you to establish four elements if you hope to prevail in your legal malpractice claim. Those four elements are as follows:
- An attorney-client relationship existed between you and the professional
- Your attorney breached his or her duty by acting against your interests
- Your attorney’s breach was the cause of your injuries
- Your injuries caused you actual damages, such as monetary loss
In most cases, you must hire an expert witness that can both establish the lawyer’s responsibilities and attest to the fact that the breach of duty was the direct cause of your damages. If the breach of duty occurred during litigation, you must put on a trial within a trial to demonstrate that, had your attorney upheld his or her responsibility, you would have obtained a better outcome in your original case.
Types of legal malpractice
Legal malpractice can take many different forms. From missing deadlines to failing to assert a defense, and from inadequate research to ignoring clients’ instructions, there are several ways an attorney can act that go against the client’s best interests. Other examples of malpractice may include failing to file compulsory cross complaints, failing to obtain consent before agreeing to a settlement, and failing to convey the full terms of a settlement or plea agreement.
When an attorney acts against a client’s best interests, the outcome can be disastrous. If you know this all too well, know that you are not without options. Legal remedies do exist, and they can help right the wrongs you endured.