Mistakes made by an attorney can have significant, costly consequences for his or her client. As such, California law provides for individuals and organizations to recover loses in incidents where their legal counsel failed to perform according to the standards of the profession. This is known as legal malpractice, a very specialized area of the law that is typically handled by a personal injury lawyer specializing in prosecuting these types of cases. Though this area of the law falls under personal injury, such an attorney is commonly referred to simply as a legal malpractice attorney.
Just failing to win a case is not sufficient grounds on which to file a suit against an attorney and win damages. At least four criteria must be met that prove that an attorney breached his duty to the client:
Proof of negligence Attorney negligence occurs when the lawyer fails to use the care and skill that would be reasonably expected by other lawyers in similar circumstances. For example, when lawyer negligence fails to procure expert testimony in a case with technical detail (such as in a medical malpractice lawsuit).
Damages tied to the negligence The mistake of negligence of the attorney must result in damage to the client. A case against an attorney essentially is a case within a case. A legal malpractice attorney must prove there would have been a different outcome had the attorneys negligence not occurred. This typically requires the use of another lawyer as an expert witness.
Existing written agreement Very specific rules under California law require that written agreements exist between lawyers and client for cases where client fees will exceed $1,000. Sometimes, those agreements will restrict legal malpractice claims, such as requiring such disputes to be resolved through arbitration. Some agreements also require the losing party in a malpractice claim to pay the attorney fees of the prevailing party.
Viability for collecting on an award Attorneys in California are not required to carry liability insurance. Because an award for legal malpractice might exceed existing resources of that lawyer or law firm, it may not be possible to collect the damages you suffered if the attorney has no insurance.
When looking for a legal malpractice attorney
If you have damages due to legal malpractice in Southern California, consider hiring a reputable legal malpractice lawyer with experience in this area. It is a specialized area of injury law where clients benefit from personal injury attorneys who understand the specific challenges of such cases.
R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.