Legal malpractice is negligence by a lawyer in handling any legal matter. Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care under the circumstances. To have an actionable malpractice claim takes more than just negligence though. In order to have a valid legal malpractice case, the negligence has to cause damage to the client or intended beneficiary of the legal work.
It would be difficult to simply make a list of the types of legal malpractice cases that are good or bad. Each case is unique and needs to be considered on its own particular facts. But there are certain issues we must carefully review before deciding if we can accept your case....
The statute of limitations is a time limit set by law which creates a deadline for filing a lawsuit. If you file your suit after the deadline the suit will be thrown out. Each state has its own special requirements and some states allow extensions or have exceptions to their time limits. If you think you may have a claim for legal malpractice you should contact a malpractice lawyer in your state as soon as possible to learn the precise deadline for filing your claim.
It can sometimes be difficult to find a lawyer to handle a legal malpractice case simply because there are few lawyers who do legal malpractice work at all. The smaller the city you are in the harder it will be to find someone locally who does this type of work.
Probably most legal malpractice cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that you only have to pay the attorney a fee for his services if either by settlement or trial he obtains a recovery for you. If he does not obtain a recovery, you owe him nothing for his services.
If your legal malpractice case arising out of mishandling a personal injury or wrongful death case, then in most cases your malpractice attorney will advance all the expenses or “costs” of the case, and then be reimbursed for these costs out of the recovery. Because of the complexities and proof requirements in malpractice cases, these out-of-pocket costs spent by the attorney on things like records, court reporters, expert witnesses, travel, and trial exhibits, can easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
The average time from beginning to end varies from city to city and state to state, usually ranging from one to six years. In most places the average is probably two to three years. A rare case can be settled in a few weeks or months. On occasion, a case could last a decade or more including appeals.
Of course, we hope you will consider our firm. We have handled various types of claims from the Emerald Coast to the Gold Coast. From Jacksonville to the Florida Keys. From Tampa Bay to the Space Coast and across all of Florida.
There are four things you should expect from your lawyer: honesty, advocacy, diligence, and communication. Your lawyer is your advocate, and you should expect him at all times to act in your best interest within the bounds of professionalism and the law. At the same time, you should expect your lawyer to be honest. Your lawyer will not let you, or coach you, to lie or conceal evidence.
Suppose the lawyer negligently handled a legal matter for you in New Jersey but now you have retired and you live in Miami Beach. If you sue the lawyer, you will in all probability have to use him in the state where the negligence occurred, i.e., New Jersey. In other words, malpractice cases are normally filed where the malpractice occurred or the legal services were to be performed, or sometimes where the defendant resides, and not where the client lived, did business, or moved afterward.
Some states have enacted laws which put caps or limits on the maximum amounts people can recover in certain types of cases. Most of these caps apply to personal injury or medical malpractice cases and will not affect legal malpractice cases, unless of course the legal malpractice occurred in connection with a lawyer handling a capped personal injury case, in which case the same cap on what you could have recovered in the first case would ordinarily carry over to your legal malpractice case.
Punitive damages are an amount of money designed to punish the defendant for misconduct that was particularly bad. Most legal malpractice cases do not involve the possibility of punitive damages because the case only involves issues of negligence and not intentional or gross misconduct.
In most states you will have a right to a trial by jury if you want one. Your trial will be presided over by a judge, but the judge will decide issues of law and will make rulings on what evidence the jury is entitled to hear. The jury will decide who they think is telling the truth, what the facts are, and will decide the amount of damages you are entitled to recover.
The short answer is no. There is no requirement in Florida that attorneys carry legal malpractice insurance, and the Florida Bar does not keep track of how many lawyers have it. It has been estimated that about 65 percent of lawyers who practice in Florida have malpractice insurance; the rest “go bare”.
Do not hesitate to talk to more than one lawyer about taking your case. Maybe the third lawyer you talk to will have had good success with a case just like yours, while the first two had bad experiences with a similar case. What if no attorney will take your case? It means the consensus is either that your case probably cannot be won, or that the likely damages that can be recovered will not justify bringing the case.
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