Requirements for a Legal Malpractice Claim
Whether you need assistance opening a business, seeking compensation for a major injury, writing a will, or defending yourself from civil or criminal liability, the process of hiring an attorney involves a great deal of trust. The sensitive nature of the attorney-client relationship requires that clients be protected in the event that their attorney makes a mistake or does not handle the case with the care and attention it deserves. One of the important safeguards available to clients who have been harmed by the negligent performance of their attorney is a legal malpractice lawsuit.
In order to raise a successful claim for legal malpractice, you must demonstrate three elements:
- the existence of an attorney-client relationship,
- a failure on the part of the attorney to fulfill the duty created by the attorney-client relationship,
- damages arising from the attorney’s failure to adequately represent his client.
When a client can establish each of these three elements, the attorney is liable for the damages that were incurred by the client as a direct result of the attorney’s negligence.
The most complicated element of this test is the requirement that the client was harmed by the attorney’s mistake. This can be a tricky task because the client must first demonstrate that his case would have been successful if his attorney had acted in accordance with the standard of care. In other words, even if the attorney made a number of mistakes, the client cannot claim to have been harmed by those mistakes if the case was not going to succeed anyway. When a client is able to establish the merits of his case, and that he would have won but for the mistakes of his attorney, the attorney is liable to the client in an amount equal to the value of the underlying case.
The most viable legal malpractice cases are those that are based on a distinct breach of the standard of care that directly led to the dismissal of a claim. For example, if an attorney fails to file her client’s otherwise meritorious claim before the statute of limitations expires, then it is clear that the mistake caused the client to sacrifice the value of the lawsuit. On the other hand, it is very difficult to establish that an attorney’s performance caused the client to lose the case when the client’s complaints relate to trial strategy or performance, such as failing to call a particular witness or refusing to cross-examine a witness in the manner the client desires.
If you believe that your attorney’s negligence caused you to lose a lawsuit, you may be entitled to compensation for damages arising from your attorney’s mistakes. The attorneys at Meyerson & O’Neill have helped many victims of legal malpractice to obtain compensation for their injuries. If you believe that your attorney’s negligence caused you to lose a lawsuit, you may be entitled to compensation for damages arising from your attorney’s mistakes. Please call (215) 972-1376 for a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.