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Quick Tip - Legal Malpractice: What Constitutes a Case?

Court ColumnsIf an attorney makes a mistake in handling a claim, can a client sue him for malpractice just because the case didn’t go as planned?

When a lawyer loses a case or it settles for less than expected, it doesn’t necessarily constitute malpractice. Legal malpractice is actually quite hard to prove, and disgruntled clients who sue their attorneys just because their case did not turn out the way they hoped it would will rarely win. 

What does it Take to Win a Legal Malpractice Case?

Just as with any negligence case, to win a malpractice case against an attorney, a client must prove these four elements:

  • The attorney owed them a duty to act properly.
  • The attorney breached the duty through negligence, some type of mistake, or the lack of action.
  • The attorney’s conduct hurt the client.
  • The client suffered a financial loss as a result.

In other words, to win a malpractice case against an attorney, it must be proven that the attorney departed from the professional standard of care that lawyers are held to, and made grave mistakes in handling a client’s case. Here are some common scenarios that could constitute legal malpractice:

  • A lawyer ignores a case or stops working on it entirely, and as a result, the case is thrown out of court.
  • A lawyer settles a case without the client’s authorization, if the client can prove that the attorney agreed to a settlement that was much less than the case was actually worth.•
  • A lawyer misses an important deadline, such as a statute of limitations, that prevents a client from being able to bring a lawsuit.
  • A lawyer breaches the duty of confidentiality he owes to a client.
  • A lawyer misuses the money a client paid as a retainer, steals a client’s money, or co-mingles trust funds.

For more information on how you and your firm can avoid mistakes and costly legal malpractice claims, contact USI Affinity today. 


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