The lawyer-client relationship requires trust and commitment. As someone in need of legal services, you essentially put your life in the hands of your attorney. Unfortunately, lawyers have a bad reputation due to the negligent behavior of a few bad apples.
You deserve competent, compassionate legal representation. Let Norris Injury Lawyers prove why we have been the trusted legal malpractice attorneys of Birmingham for over 40 years. Our #1 priority is ensuring our clients are 100-percent satisfied.
Experience the Norris difference by calling us today at (800) 477-7510. Our team is standing by 24/7 for a free consultation on your case.
The Mistakes Lawyers Make
Legal malpractice happens when an attorney fails in performing his or her duties as a client’s legal representative. Many times, this failure has direct negative consequences on the client’s life.
These errors can include:
- Breach of confidentiality
- Not meeting deadlines
- Misuse of funds
- Conflict of interest
- Agreeing to a settlement without a client’s authority
- Excessive charges and fees
- Failure to meet the statute of limitations
If you are unsure whether an attorney engaged in legal malpractice, then contacting Norris Injury Lawyers to discuss your potential legal malpractice claim is in your best interest. We can examine your case and give you options. If we do take on your case, you can hold the responsible attorneys liable and receive punitive damages from them for the harm they caused.
Proving a Relationship for a Legal Malpractice Claim
When deciding whether you can make a claim of legal malpractice, it will be up to you to prove that an attorney-client relationship existed. Did you sign a written contract? Was there a verbal agreement? Did you receive legal advice? All of these questions might determine whether that relationship was truly and legally established.
An attorney-client relationship does not just begin when the client makes the first payment. The attorney may have an oral contract of employment with the client. Many times, even just acting on the client’s behalf in any capacity, including advice given, can be enough. You may also have received an oral contract in emails or texts outlining services.
Please note the following several ways in which an attorney-client relationship may be established and maintained.
A written contract
When seeking legal counsel, you will reach out to an attorney to inquire about legal services performed. In this instance, the attorney may send you a letter that reveals the terms of his or her representation. It does not matter if you have signed or did not sign the letter. It is still considered a legal contract as long as you accepted those terms. The letter may also include a Retainer Agreement outlining the firm’s pay structure.
Once a contract between an attorney and client has been prepared, both parties must adhere to it. The agreement goes both ways. Make sure to read your contract before agreeing because it might have obligations you, the client, must follow. The party that violates the agreement no longer has the right to enforce it. This is called a material breach. This means you cannot break your end of the deal and then sue your attorney for legal malpractice.
Matters of privity
What happens when legal malpractice happens outside the bounds of an attorney-client relationship? Can you still recover punitive damages? This question is mostly asked when dealing with estate matters.
How do you handle a lawyer who mismanages an estate after a relative passes away? Are you still bound to a contract even though the relationship is no longer valid? Legal malpractice attorneys will tell you it is still possible to file a claim as long as you are the intended beneficiary.
How to Define Substandard Behavior
When a client enters into an agreement with a law firm, there is a reasonable standard of care that is expected. We may expect legal services to be performed with the highest standard of care, but that does not always happen. Attorneys cannot be held to the highest standard, nor should they operate at the lowest standard.
So if attorneys can only be held to a reasonable standard of care, what constitutes a breach of contract? Look out for the following common substandard behaviors.
Negligence per se
Attorneys understand there is a reasonable standard of conduct known as “per se” standards. These often include doing basic tasks, such as filing a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out. When an attorney fails in this way, the consequences can be devastating and cause emotional distress. This is why it is a negligent violation and you can sue the attorney for legal malpractice.
Lack of clarity standard
Some per se violations might not be so clear. One example might be your lawyer failing to call on an expert witness for your automobile case. Is this an example of legal malpractice? The expert’s testimony was a major part of your case, but that person neglected to do his or her job. This can certainly be considered a breach, but not in every case.
It may not be your attorney’s fault if proper arrangements were not made in time to call the witness. Perhaps you waited too long, there was no contract agreement in place, and the expert witness was no longer available. That would not be considered a breach. If there were no other mitigating circumstances, then you should hire a legal malpractice attorney and sue to recover damages.
The law is unclear
There are some situations where you might find that your legal counsel does not have all the answers. Sometimes, the law is simply unclear. Your lawyer should be honest about this but offer the best advice possible for that situation. In this case, there is no true basis to claim legal malpractice happened.
Otherwise, the breach of standard might be that your lawyer did not tell you the law was unclear. Perhaps he or she wrongfully gave advice with an assurance of the law’s clear application.
A judgment call was made
One reason why lawyers cannot be held to the highest standard is a difference of legal opinion. Some laws need best-guess interpretations of their meanings. Your lawyer will make a judgment call that another lawyer may disagree with. This does not mean the legal services performed by your attorney are in breach of duty.
What Damages Are Possible for a Legal Malpractice Case?
If you are the victim of what you perceive to be legal malpractice, you may have a case worth pursuing. It is understandable that your trust in the legal establishment is at an all-time low. You should not shun legal malpractice lawyers who can help you recover damages.
The right law firm can be a powerful ally in proving legal malpractice.
It is important to note that a legal malpractice case is considered a contract case, not a tort case. This means how the damages are awarded is different than a typical case. Your Birmingham legal malpractice lawyer will tell you there is no enhanced value when pursuing a case.
For example, if it was found that legal malpractice cost you a $100,000 medical malpractice case, you can only receive $100,000. Non-economic damages, like emotional distress, are rarely recoverable.
Hire the Lawyers Who Care Today
To prove a legal malpractice case, there is a burden of proof that falls on your shoulders. You need to understand what the law says about how a lawyer is expected to behave.
We can help with that! Norris Injury Lawyers has been holding negligent attorneys responsible for over 40 years. We empathize with your situation and are determined to seek justice on your behalf.
Our team of trusted legal malpractice lawyers is available 24/7 for a free consultation.
You can reach us by calling (800) 477-7510 or by filling out the free online form. There’s no reason to hesitate – our No Fee Guarantee® means you will not pay a dime unless you win compensation.