Legal malpractice typically is an action a client makes against a former attorney for professional negligence. In these cases, the client is claiming that the attorney has failed to use the necessary skill and diligence lawyers usually possess, along with failing to perform and execute the task for which they were hired. When an attorney acts in a negligent manner or fails to exercise reasonable care when providing legal advice or representation, it could be the basis of legal malpractice.
The laws and requirements on filing a legal malpractice lawsuit vary from state to state. When a client visits an attorney for advice or representation, the attorney owes a certain duty to the client. The attorney owes a primary duty of reasonable care exercised by lawyers similarly situated. The duty that a lawyer owes a client has two components – competency, and protecting the fiduciary relationship with the client. An attorney owes his or her client undivided loyalty and confidentiality.
An attorney can be liable for legal malpractice if the attorney breaches his fiduciary duty through self dealing, conflicts of interest, disclosure of client confidential information and disclosure of former client confidential information. Failure to exercise reasonable care can result in legal negligence. Reasonable care means the care other attorneys in the same field and community would exercise under similar circumstances. In general, an attorney owes a duty of care to a person once that person hires the attorney and becomes a client.
Any conduct of the attorney which deviates from the conduct of other attorneys under similar circumstances and causes loss to the client amounts to legal malpractice. The following may amount to legal malpractice: a case is dismissed because the attorney failed to properly pursue the case; the attorney failed to secure witnesses and experts for the case; the attorney failed to act before a statute of limitations or calendar deadline; the attorney forced settlement in a case for any reason that unjustly harmed the client; and any other failures or errors that result in client damages. For legal malpractice to occur there must be an attorney-client relationship. There should be negligence on the part of the attorney in the legal representation of the client and the negligence must be a proximate cause of loss suffered by the client.
The loss must be from the attorney’s misconduct. Additionally, the client must suffer actual damages as a result of the legal malpractice. A victim of legal malpractice can claim compensation for the loss suffered. In some cases, the victims may be entitled to punitive damages. In certain situations, triple damages under state consumer protection statutes may also be available. The victim can also claim damages for mental anguish or suffering. In most cases of legal malpractice, the attorney may rely on what were formerly privileged communications from the client in order to respond to allegations of negligence.
The attorney will not be liable for what, in hindsight, were errors in judgment where the attorney made those judgments in good faith and in the honest belief that the decisions were well founded in the law and made in the best interest of the client. This is known as attorney judgment rule. Since damages are not presumed in a legal malpractice case, the victim bears the burden of proving actual damages as a result of the attorney’s negligence.
Handling a legal malpractice case is a difficult and complicated process. It is best to have your case handled by an experienced CT Legal Malpractice Attorney. Contact our team at 888-244-5480.