What are Examples of Legal Malpractice Cases?

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When a lawyer agrees to represent a client, they undertake legal and ethical duties to advise and represent the client to the best of their ability. If a lawyer fails in these duties and the client is harmed, the client may have a claim for legal malpractice.

Like other claims of professional negligence, legal malpractice claims can be complicated and are often emotionally fraught. To win your legal malpractice case, you must prove a “case-within-a-case,” meaning you must prove not only that the lawyer committed malpractice, but also that, if not for the lawyer’s malpractice, you would have prevailed in the underlying case.

Because of the complexities involved in litigating a legal malpractice claim, you should not undertake a claim for legal malpractice without assistance from a qualified and experienced legal malpractice lawyer. If you believe you were the victim of legal malpractice, The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc. can evaluate your situation, determine whether you have a viable claim, and represent you in your legal malpractice lawsuit against your former lawyer.

What Is Legal Malpractice?

Like other professionals, lawyers must provide services that comply with the minimum standard of care. The standard of care for legal malpractice is what a reasonably prudent lawyer would do in a similar situation. If a lawyer fails to meet their duty and their client is harmed, the attorney can be held liable for legal malpractice.

What Are Examples of Legal Malpractice?

A lawyer does not need to be perfect, and no lawyer can guarantee results. But a lawyer must provide a level of representation that is consistent with what a reasonably competent, similarly trained professional would do in the same or similar circumstances.

A lawyer can commit malpractice through an action or a failure to act. For example, it would be an act of legal malpractice to take a client’s money that the lawyer had not earned. It is also malpractice if a lawyer forgets to file court documents on a client’s behalf.

Here are some common examples of legal malpractice:

  • Failing to meet a deadline. Failure to meet a filing deadline, like the failure to file a case within the statute of limitations, is one of the most common examples of legal malpractice. There are numerous deadlines attorneys must meet in the practice of law. If you were harmed because your lawyer waited too long to file your case or legal documents, you might have a claim for legal malpractice.
  • Not knowing the facts or applicable law. Your lawyer must take the time to learn the facts and laws that apply to your case.
  • Commingling. An attorney cannot mix client funds with their own funds. Doing so is a breach of their professional obligations to you.
  • Fraud or misrepresentation. Your lawyer has a duty to be honest with you. A lawyer may commit malpractice if they fail to disclose something important (i.e., a material fact) that would impact your decision in your case.
  • Failure to communicate. A lawyer has a duty to keep their client informed of what is happening in their case so the client can participate and make informed decisions about their legal matter.
  • Accepting or rejecting a settlement without the client’s consent. A lawyer should not accept or reject a settlement offer without discussing the matter with the client first.
  • Conflict of interest. An attorney cannot represent clients who have competing interests. A conflict of interest exists when one client would be harmed by an action that would benefit another client.
  • Breach of confidentiality. The attorney-client privilege means that conversations you have with your lawyer must remain confidential. Except for a few limited exceptions, if your lawyer discloses something you told them in confidence, the lawyer may have committed malpractice.

How to Prove Legal Malpractice

Like any claim for professional malpractice, there are certain elements you must prove to establish a claim for legal malpractice.

  • Duty. A lawyer’s duty arises when they agree to represent you and an attorney-client relationship is formed.
  • Breach. The lawyer failed to fulfill their professional obligations. This could be by engaging in intentional wrongful conduct, or by acting or failing to act in such a way that their representation fell below the applicable standard of care.
  • Causation. The lawyer’s actions or omissions caused you harm for which you deserve to be compensated. The outcome of any legal matter is never certain, so you must be able to prove that your case would have turned out differently if your lawyer had not committed malpractice.
  • Damages. The measure of how the lawyer’s malpractice caused you harm. This may include money you would have recovered if the lawyer had not committed malpractice, fees paid to the lawyer who committed malpractice, and fees paid to a new lawyer to undo the harm caused by the lawyer’s malpractice.

Proving Damages in a Legal Malpractice Claim

To prevail in a claim for legal malpractice, you must prove a “case-within-a-case.” Not only must you prove that your lawyer’s conduct fell below the applicable standard of care, you must also demonstrate that, if not for the lawyer’s negligence, you would have prevailed in your underlying case.

In some legal malpractice claims, your damages will be limited to the actual damages you incurred because of the lawyer’s malpractice. For example, if your personal injury claim was valued at $100,000 and you did not receive that compensation because of your lawyer’s negligence, the damages in your legal malpractice case would be the $100,000 you lost because of the lawyer’s incompetence.

In a transactional matter, you can recover damages caused by the lawyer’s incompetent handling of a business or real estate deal, such as a claim for lost profits or lost economic opportunities.

But just because you received a bad result does not necessarily mean the lawyer committed malpractice. You may have received the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Legal Malpractice Claim?

The statute of limitations for legal malpractice in Ohio is one year. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that this one-year period begins to run at the latter of (1) when the client discovered or reasonably should have discovered the legal malpractice or (2) when the attorney-client relationship ends.

Accurately determining the statute of limitations is crucial to any claim, especially a claim for legal malpractice. But there are numerous exceptions to the statute of limitations. Our experienced legal malpractice lawyers can evaluate your situation to correctly identify the applicable statute of limitations in your case.

Contact The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc., to Evaluate Your Claim for Legal Malpractice

If you believe you were the victim of legal malpractice, The Robenalt Law Firm, Inc., can help. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case. Our legal malpractice lawyers can analyze your situation, determine whether legal malpractice occurred, and help you evaluate your options. If legal malpractice did occur, we will develop a plan to move forward and seek the compensation you deserve.

Call us at (216) 223-7535, email trobenalt@robenaltlaw.com, or complete our online contact form.

The Robenalt Law Firm is based in Cleveland and represents people in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Akron, and throughout Ohio.

Categories: Legal Malpractice