Every professional makes mistakes. Sometimes it is the doctor who misses the diagnosis. Sometimes it is the truck driver who runs through a stop sign. The victim then seeks help from an attorney to seek fair compensation. Sadly, the lawyer can make a bad situation even worse by committing legal malpractice which causes the victim to lose his personal injury, malpractice, estate administration, or other lawsuit.
Legal malpractice cases can add insult to injury. Melrose Law has significant experience helping people who have fallen victim to their attorney’s mistake or neglect. These cases can be very challenging and complex. Not only do we have to prove the lawyer was negligent, but we also must prove the damages you would have recovered with competent legal representation.
Fortunately, the law also holds attorneys responsible for their professional negligence. We help people who need to file claims against their own attorneys, and help the client unravel the layers of mistakes that may seem hopeless at first. The bottom line is that if the client can prove they had a good case and that the lawyer’s mistake cost them the ability to make a recovery, then the client can make the very same recovery against the attorney and the law firm.
Missed Statute of Limitations
The most common error is when the attorney misses the deadline to file the complaint. In North Carolina, a claim for personal injury must be filed within three years from the date of the accident. For accidents causing wrongful death, the deadline is only two years. If the victim, of surviving family member, seeks legal help within the statute of limitations, the lawyer has a duty to file the case on time. If the attorney fails to file the complaint before the deadline, the client loses the right to sue the at-fault doctor, truck driver, grocery store, etc. for damages. The Court has no choice but to dismiss the case.
The only remedy for the victim who may be facing massive unpaid medical bills and other harm is to hire another attorney to file a claim or lawsuit against the first lawyer seeking the very same damages that were caused in the accident. The attorney, or most likely his professional malpractice insurance company, will then pay the very same damages to the victim that should have been paid by the at-fault doctor, truck driver, etc.
Other types of legal malpractice claims arise when the attorney fails to attend a court date, fails to respond to written discovery, fails to do adequate legal research, fails to hire appropriate experts, fails to forward settlement offers to his/her client, or fails to respond to requests for admissions during the litigation. If one or more of these mistakes fall below what a competent lawyer should know and provide to the client, then there may be a claim for legal malpractice.
In a legal malpractice claim we have to prove what specific mistakes were made by the attorney. We then must prove, often with expert witnesses, what a competent lawyer would or should have done in the case. Finally, we have to prove the harm to our client. For example, if a statute of limitations was missed, then the lawyer is liable for the same amount of damages that should have been recovered from the car insurance company. Instead of the car insurance paying our client, it is the defendant attorney’s malpractice insurance that pays the settlement.
Most law firms will not sue other lawyers. At Melrose Law we think about these cases differently. We understand that everyone makes mistakes, but we also believe that everyone should be held legally accountable for all the harm he or she causes. We carry our own professional malpractice insurance. We explain to our clients that this insurance is really not for our protection, but rather for our clients to have a source of funds should we make a serious mistake and cause them harm. The insurance is for them to be made whole.
Conflict of Interest
Attorneys are generally only permitted to represent one client in a case. This ensures that the attorney is completely loyal to their client’s individual interests. They are not supposed to balance the competing needs and desires of multiple interested parties to a case. Attorneys are also prohibited from representing a new client against a former client about the same subject matter. This makes sense, because you have the right to complete confidentiality with your attorney, and should never face a situation where those private communications could later be used by the same attorney in a later case against you. Attorneys also may have a conflict due to a relationship with a witness in a case, or perhaps they have some hidden business relationship with the opposing attorney or interested party. All of these circumstances can lead to divided loyalties which can harm a client.
If you discover that your attorney had a conflict of interest, and you lost your case as a result of that conflict, it may be possible to file a legal malpractice claim against your lawyer and the law firm. Everyone has the right to expect that the attorney is only helping the client and is not helping anyone else (or himself) during the claim process.
Fees For Legal Malpractice Cases
We handle all these cases on a contingency basis just like all the other personal injury and wrongful death cases we handle. The good news is that the client will never pay more than the underlying contingency fee that the first lawyers was charging who made the mistake. And, if the claim against the lawyer is lost, you will not have to pay Melrose Law a fee for pursuing the claim against the first attorney.
We understand how frustrating and intimidating it can be when you are the victim of some misfortune, or you have lost a loved one. We can help you navigate successfully to obtain the same damages your first attorney should have provided. Please contact us for a free consultation.