Mistakes are inevitable in any profession, but if your lawyer is the one making mistakes, the results could be especially costly.
What Is Legal Malpractice as Defined by the Law?
When a lawyer mishandles a case due to negligence or with the intent to harm and causes damages to their client, it’s called legal malpractice.
For any legal malpractice claim to be valid, you will have to prove four elements:
- The lawyer had a duty to you. If you hire a lawyer, then they have a duty to handle your case appropriately and competently.
- The lawyer breached that duty. After establishing your lawyer had a duty to you, you need to show that your lawyer breached that duty by negligence, errors, mistakes, or not doing what you had already agreed upon.
- The lawyer’s breach caused damages. This element is called causation because you need to show that the lawyer’s breach directly caused damages to you. If the lawyer hadn’t been negligent or made an error, then your case would have been successful.
- You suffered financial damages. Finally, you have to prove that due to your lawyer’s malpractice, you had a financial loss.
Here in the United States, the five most common legal malpractice claims are:
- Failure to know or properly apply the law;
- Planning or strategy errors;
- Inadequate discovery of facts or inadequate investigation;
- Failure to file documents when there is no deadline involved; and
- Failure to properly put time deadlines on a calendar.
4 Ways to Avoid Legal Malpractice in Florida
Now that you know what legal malpractice looks like, how can you avoid it?
By using the qualities of a good lawyer as your guide, you should be able to reduce your risk of legal malpractice and increase your case’s chance of a successful outcome. Let’s look at four things you can do to avoid legal malpractice in Florida.
Do your research. Don’t just type “lawyer” into Google and hire the first name that pops up. You need to research the best attorney for you and your case.
Getting personal recommendations is a great way to find a quality lawyer. If you don’t have a recommendation, read online reviews from previous clients or directly ask a lawyer for references. Both positive and negative feedback can help you decide if a lawyer is right for you.
Make sure your attorney has had success with your type of case. Hire a lawyer not only who has had experience with your type of case but also who has had success. You need to ensure that your attorney knows the law as it relates to your case and the best way to help you win. Look at their website for prior case results or simply ask.
Find a lawyer who communicates clearly. You and your attorney will be having many discussions about the details of your case and how to proceed through the legal system. It is essential that your lawyer communicates clearly and honestly with you so you are always aware of what’s happening with your case and what decisions need to be made. An attorney who is vague or doesn’t take the time to explain things to you isn’t worth your time or money.
Determine whether your attorney is available. Make sure your lawyer has time to take on your case. If your attorney is too busy for you and your case, important details like deadlines could slip between the cracks.
The best way to prevent legal malpractice from occurring is to hire a qualified attorney, but sometimes – no matter what you do – legal malpractice can’t be avoided. If you believe you’ve suffered legal malpractice, reach out to an experienced Florida legal malpractice attorney today for a consultation.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.