If you’ve found this page, you may be questioning the legal services that you received. Your attorney may have made a mistake in your case, and the error may have cost you dearly. On the other hand, the attorney may not have lived up to the terms of their services agreement with you. You may be wondering – Can I sue my attorney? What can I do if my attorney messed up my case? What are grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit?
These are all great questions. Florida law allows legal malpractice lawsuits. When a lawyer breaches their duty of care, you may have a claim for legal malpractice. Here’s what you need to know regarding suing an attorney for legal malpractice
What Are the Grounds for a Legal Malpractice Claim?
There are three general grounds for a legal malpractice claim: First, you may sue your attorney for failing to do their job up to professional standards. That’s called negligence. Second, you may sue your attorney for breaching their contract of services with you. Third, you may sue your attorney for breach of their fiduciary duty to act in your best interests.
Suing an Attorney for Negligence
One way to sue an attorney for malpractice is to bring a claim for negligence. A negligence claim says that the attorney didn’t do a competent job in your case. An attorney is presumed to be qualified to handle your case. If they don’t have the skills or experience to do a competent job, they shouldn’t take the case. In addition to having the right skills, they must also avoid making careless errors that can unravel your claim. Here are a few examples of when attorney negligence can amount to malpractice:
- An attorney with no experience in personal injury law takes a personal injury case. The attorney fails to assert a claim that likely would have been successful for the client. The client misses the opportunity to bring the claim.
- A breach of contract claim proceeds to trial. The other party wants to admit testimony that’s barred by the Florida Evidence Code as hearsay. The attorney who represents you doesn’t know the evidence rules well enough to assert the appropriate objection. The testimony damages your case, and you ultimately lose.
- The attorney who represents you in your divorce doesn’t undertake proper discovery. They fail to uncover a hidden asset that the other party is hiding. Performing discovery would have been appropriate under the circumstances. Because of their error, you lose out on recovering what you should have recovered under Florida divorce law.
- Based on the Florida statute of limitations for your case, you only have until a specific deadline to bring your claim. Your attorney either doesn’t bother to determine the deadline, or they know of the deadline and they miss it. Either way, you’re unable to bring your case, or it quickly gets dismissed.
These are just a few examples of attorney negligence. There are all kinds of ways that an attorney can commit malpractice based on negligence. Negligence means that the attorney fails to provide reasonably competent services. Lawyers are presumed to be qualified to handle your case.
The lawyer in your case must do an adequate job handling your case based on professional standards. The comparison to apply is what a reasonable, trained lawyer would do in the same situation. If a reasonable lawyer would have avoided making errors or would have had more skill to apply to the case, you may have a claim against your lawyer for negligence.
Suing an Attorney for Breach of Contract
Another way to sue an attorney for malpractice is to sue them for breach of contract. When you hire your attorney, you may sign an agreement for services. It may have been called a retainer agreement. If your attorney fails to follow this agreement, you may have a claim for breach of contract just like you could sue anyone else for violating the terms of a deal. Some examples of an attorney breach of contract case may include:
- An attorney agrees to prepare a business incorporation agreement by a certain date. They don’t have it done on time.
- You pay your lawyer a retainer, but they don’t do any work on your case.
- An attorney agrees to bill you at an hourly rate for services. When your bill arrives, they charge you a much higher rate.
- You agree with your lawyer on a flat fee for services. Later, your attorney demands more money to complete the work.
A breach of contract case depends on the terms of your contract or retainer agreement. An experienced attorney for lawyer malpractice claims can help you review what happened in your case to see if a breach of contract claim applies.
Suing an Attorney for Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Finally, you can sue an attorney for malpractice because of a breach of fiduciary duty. An attorney has an obligation to act in your best interests. While they’re able to determine what methods to use to carry out your wishes, ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether to resolve your case by settlement or make the other major decisions in the case. If your attorney makes decisions that aren’t in your best interests, their actions may amount to a breach of fiduciary duty that allows you to sue your attorney for malpractice. Some examples of breach of fiduciary duty include:
- You ask your attorney to prepare a will that leaves your assets to your children. Instead, the attorney drafts the will that leaves assets to their favorite charity.
- You don’t want to accept a settlement. You understand the risks and the pros and cons, and you want to proceed to trial. The attorney accepts the settlement on your behalf.
These are just a couple of the ways that an attorney can breach their fiduciary duty to their client. An attorney must always act in the best interests of their client.
How to Sue an Attorney for Malpractice
Do you have questions about the legal representation that you’ve received? Our Tampa attorneys for lawyer malpractice cases can help you review what’s happened. Let’s talk about what legal malpractice is and whether you’re a victim. Our team has decades of experience and thousands of satisfied clients. Contact us today for a no-obligation discussion of your claim.