Understanding Your Rights in a Legal Malpractice Case
You depended upon your attorney to provide you with capable, professional legal representation. The unfortunate reality is that not all lawyers provide clients with suitable legal assistance.
People make mistakes, even in professional fields. Mistakes may not be malicious or deliberate, but even an unitentional or “honest mistake” that harms you financially may need a remedy.
If you find yourself with financial or other losses caused by an attorney, you may need to consider the necessity of engaging a Massachusetts legal malpractice lawyer to protect your rights and interests.
Overview of Legal Malpractice
When your attorney agreed to represent you, that lawyer committed to providing you with appropriate, competent legal representation. The lawyer agreed to provide you competent representation, comparable to other attorneys providing the same type of legal assistance to their own clients. Your lawyer established a fiduciary relationship with you, which means he or she was in a relationship of trust with you to serve your best interests.
Do no confuse the Code of Professional Responsibility for being an absolute guideline for establishing a legal malpractice case. You may have elected to file a complaint concerning your lawyer with the attorney licensing authority. However, the standards used to conclude attorney misconduct occurred are not the same as those used in a civil lawsuit concerning legal malpractice.
Standard for Establishing Legal Malpractice
Massachusetts tort or negligence law requires certain legal criteria to me met in order to pursue a malpractice case of any time, including medical or legal malpractice. Legal malpractice is established by satisfying four elements of this type of negligence. These elements are:
- lawyer owed a duty of competent, skillful representation
- the lawyer failed to provide that level of representation
- the failure resulted in harm to you
- the damage to you resulted in a financial loss
Types of Legal Malpractice
Legal malpractice comes in many forms. Whether legal malpractice exists depends upon the facts and circumstances of a particular case. In other words, specific facts must be examined on a case-by-case basis to ascertain whether a valid complaint of legal malpractice actually does exist.
With that noted, there are some common types of conduct that oftentimes result in claims of legal malpractice by clients. Some of these situations are more obvious signs of malpractice than are others.
Failure to Meet Statute of Limitations
If your case involved the need to file a lawsuit, there is a law called the statute of limitations that must be satisfied. All states, including the commonwealth of Massachusetts, maintain a statute of limitations. In basic terms, the statute of limitations establishes a specific deadline by which a certain type of lawsuit must be filed.
The failure to meet the deadline established by the statute of limitations usually prevents you from ever bringing a lawsuit. In other words, you are forever precluded from obtaining compensation and justice in your case. If your attorney misses the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations, you may have a strong claim for legal malpractice.
A category of potential legal malpractice sometimes is listed as administrative. However, merely because some error might be categorized as administrative does not mean the consequences are minimal.
One area in which legal malpractice may exist is when an attorney missed some sort of deadline. More often than not that will be a missed deadline in a court proceeding. Missing a deadline, or missing multiple ones, can result in the dismissal of a case, which can have highly serious consequences for you.
Missed Court Appearances
On a somewhat related note, there are cases if legal malpractice in which a lawyer misses court appearances. This type of error oftentimes falls within the administrative category because an attorney typically misses a court date because of a scheduling mishap.
Judges do not take the failure to appear lightly. If this happened in your case because of your attorney, you may have faced court sanctions or seen your case dismissed all together.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
As mentioned previously, your lawyer owed you a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and honestly. If your attorney breached this duty, you may have a case for legal malpractice.
An obvious example of a breach of fiduciary duty is if your lawyer misused or misappropriated money you entrusted with legal counsel. For example, if your lawyer administered a trust on your behalf, the misapplication of trust funds would constitute a breach of a fiduciary duty providing grounds for a malpractice claim.
Do I Need a Legal Malpractice Attorney in Massachusetts?
A legal malpractice case is a complicated matter. The best course to take to fully protect your rights and interests is to retain the services of an experienced, tenacious legal malpractice attorney.
The legal team at our firm has an extensive background in representing clients in legal malpractice cases, even of the most complex kind. Schedule an initial consultation with your firm today. There is no charge for a preliminary appointment with a legal malpractice attorney from our firm.