Many people know that doctors can be held legally accountable if they give bad advice to patients that causes the patients injury. But, did you know that lawyers can also be held accountable if they give bad legal advice to their clients? If a lawyer's negligence causes serious financial or physical harm to a party in a civil case, that party may be able to recover from the negligent lawyer for legal malpractice.
Imagine if you thought you were limiting a fee to a maximum of $2 million but were later told the fee would be $10 million. It would be quite a shock, especially if you were relying on advice from a prestigious law firm.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, has issued an important ruling on attorney fee awards. When the requested fees are "grossly" or "outrageously" excessive, judges are not required to determine a fair amount. Instead, they have the discretion to simply disallow any fee award.
What activities are high-risk for legal malpractice? Are there certain practice areas where malpractice claims are more common? An insurance broker called Ames & Gough recently performed an annual survey of professional liability insurers to find out.
Today's post is not technically about legal malpractice but it could still be instructive for lawyers and their clients. A Connecticut woman sued an attorney for $85,000 after she was hit by pasta an attorney had flung during an argument with another man. The pasta, covered in a spicy sauce, struck the woman in the face and eyes, causing her to trip, fall and seriously injure herself.
Can an attorney be disbarred for handling outside cases when employed by a law firm? It depends on what their employment contract with the law firm says, according to the Washington Supreme Court and that state bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel. And, if that employment contract prohibits the lawyer from handling outside cases, accepting fees for those cases constitutes theft.
Broadly, legal malpractice occurs when your lawyer failed to perform in accordance with accepted legal standards and that failure caused you a financial loss. It's not legal malpractice simply to lose a case or even to make a major mistake. Not every bad outcome is the result of malpractice.
Failure to know or apply the law is, according to the American Bar Association, the leading type of alleged error in legal malpractice claims. When you retain an attorney, you expect that attorney to have a knowledge of the law that goes well beyond what the average person would be expected to have. Because an attorney represents you, if he or she lacks relevant legal knowledge or fails to apply the law in a way that furthers your interests, then that attorney may have engaged in legal malpractice. Below is a brief look at what failure to know/apply the law consists of.
Everybody makes mistakes, but for certain professionals, those mistakes could lead to major repercussions for their clients. Lawyers are held to high standards for a good reason: the work they do has a major impact on their clients' lives. If a lawyer makes a serious mistake or does not fulfill his or her role properly, it is often the client who will suffer the consequences. Holding attorneys responsible for potential malpractice helps ensure that consumers are protected and that the legal profession as a whole continues to strive for the highest of standards. Here is a quick look at the three most common legal malpractice claims, according to the American Bar Association.
Vazquez v. Macri et al., No: A-3572-10T1 (N.J. Super. 2012) is a New Jersey state case which discusses when an expert is needed to define the professional standard of care. In the original trial, the case was dismissed in the defendant attorney's favor because no expert witness was produced. On appeal, the Plaintiff's main argument was that lay jurors could replace experts in this limited circumstance. The appeals court showed particularly why pre-litigation discovery, specifically depositions are so important in proper case preparation.