So your lawyer messed up…big time. This wasn’t just a failure to get you the results you want. It was a failure to perform the duties you hired them for in the first place — your lawyer failed to file paperwork on time, refused to return your calls or shirked other typical obligations to you as a client.
A negligent lawyer isn’t just a pain. Legal malpractice can cost you thousands of dollars in fees, lost income, and other expenses when you decide to pursue this kind of case.
Suing an attorney for legal malpractice can also be a long and tedious process, so we want you to know what elements are vital in proving your case and getting the compensation you deserve.
Do You Have a Case? What You Have To Prove to Win in Florida
The most important case before traveling down an arduous road like this is understanding whether you have a case to begin with. Winning a legal malpractice case is not easy.
You will face an experienced attorney and attempt to prove more than just that the lawyer didn’t do their job. The following elements need to be present in order for you to have the grounds to file suit.
Did the Attorney Owe You a Duty?
First and foremost, you will have to prove that the lawyer had a duty to defend you. Collect the contracts signed by both parties.
If the lawyer had a duty to file paperwork by a certain date or use your money for specific services, you will have to provide evidence of these duties to the court.
Did Your Former Attorney Breach the Duty Owed?
Essentially, you need to explain what the lawyer did wrong. A breach of duty could be any negligent or intentionally harmful action that went against the duties the lawyer agreed to uphold. This could include:
- Settling the case without consulting you first
- Misuse of your retainer
- Failing to communicate or work on your case
Did the Breach Directly Cause Actual Damages?
This is the hardest element to prove. If a lawyer did something wrong but you didn’t lose money, you won’t win your case. You need to show direct causation between the lawyer’s malpractice and financial damages accrued.
If you have not lost any money yet, but fear that legal malpractice could result in damages, you have options for switching lawyers or urging the lawyer to get straight with your case.
You Have Options Before Suing For Florida Legal Malpractice
Suing for legal malpractice can help you cover the damages accumulated after your lawyer was negligent. Before reaching that point, if you need to get their attention or want to resolve issues, you have options to consider.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Switching Lawyers
If there is still time to work on your case, you have the right to terminate your lawyer and get a new one. What you must also consider, however, are the possible consequences of switching to a new attorney so soon.
Working things out with your current lawyer may be the most efficient and cost-effective option for you.
Get a Second Opinion or Third Party Involved
Simply consulting with another lawyer may be a better approach when you’re beginning to question the actions (or inactions) of your current counsel.
A personal injury lawyer or second opinion could help you take the most appropriate action for your case. An arbitrator may also be able to help you resolve any financial dispute.
You Could Choose to Report Your Lawyer
Individuals with complaints against a lawyer can voice their concerns with the Florida Department of Lawyer Regulation.
To check whether your lawyer’s behavior violated any specific ethics or codes, review the Attorney Consumer Assistance Program first.
Ultimately, deciding to sue your Florida attorney for malpractice is up to you. That being said, when you do decide it’s worth it, you will need the right person representing you.
These cases are often tough to make, and you’re going to need to fight fire with fire in this kind of situation. Seek out a Florida lawyer with experience specifically in legal malpractice.
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.