If your lawyer has made one or more mistakes, you may not know what your rights are or how to respond. Before your case is irreparably damaged, you can take action to minimize any further damage.
You have certain rights as a legal client, and the legal team at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help you assert them. We can help you understand your rights after you have received poor legal representation and help you move on with your case.
What Are My Rights as a Client?
All lawyers in California are governed by the Professional Rules of Conduct. These rules set out the duties that lawyers have to their clients and to the court. They regulate lawyers’ conduct and are intended to protect the public, the courts, and the profession. According to these rules, lawyers must:
- Reasonably consult with a client about the direction of their case
- Explain matters to the extent reasonably necessary so that the client can make informed decisions about the legal representation
- Abide by the client’s decisions
- Act with reasonable diligence in the case
- Not neglect, disregard or delay a case entrusted to the lawyer
- Not intentionally, recklessly, or with gross negligence fail to perform legal services with competence
- Keep the client reasonably informed about the status of their case
- Promptly inform the client of any decision or situation that requires the client’s informed consent
- Promptly comply with reasonable requests from the client for information and copies of significant documents
- Promptly communicate to the client all terms and conditions of a settlement offer
- Notify clients in writing if they do not have professional liability insurance
- Not represent a client when there is a conflict of interest due to previous or current legal representation without the client’s informed consent
- Not charge an unconscionable or illegal fee
- Hold any client funds in a trust account
The above is just a sampling of the rules lawyers must abide by.
What Can I Do If My Attorney Violates My Rights?
You may have several options if your attorney violates your rights, including:
- Firing your lawyer
- Hiring a new lawyer
- Reporting the conduct to the State Bar of California for disciplinary action
- Filing a legal malpractice claim against your lawyer and potentially receiving compensation for the injuries your lawyer has charged
While you may be hesitant to reach out for additional legal assistance after legal representation has gone badly, legal malpractice cases are very complex. That means you will most likely want an experienced lawyer’s help if you are considering taking action against your former lawyer.
What Is Legal Malpractice?
The public relies on attorneys to handle litigation, settlements, and other legal matters. Attorneys have a duty to their clients to use skill, diligence, and prudence to competently represent their clients. When these professionals fall short of what’s expected of them, the lawyer may have committed legal malpractice.
Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer breached their duty of care to their client and injures the client as a result of the breach. Common examples of legal malpractice include:
- Not adequately researching a relevant topic
- Missing deadlines
- Not conducting reasonable discovery
- Failing to assert a valid defense
- Ignoring the client’s instructions
- Failing to convey or get consent to a settlement
If you believe that your attorney has screwed up your personal injury case, contact another legal professional who can evaluate whether you have grounds for legal malpractice.
Can I Sue My Lawyer for Legal Malpractice?
You may be able to sue your lawyer for legal malpractice if you can establish the legal elements discussed below. However, it is important to understand that legal malpractice cases are very complex and difficult to win.
You will need to show your attorney failed to use the ordinary skill and care other lawyers would have used under the same circumstances. It is prudent to seek legal representation immediately if you are considering filing a lawsuit against your lawyer. You will need substantial proof of your lawyer’s mistakes, and another lawyer will be better positioned to gather such evidence and build a strong case.
What Do I Have To Prove in a Legal Malpractice Claim?
There are certain legal elements that you must prove in order to prove legal malpractice has occurred, including:
- The existence of an attorney-client relationship
- The attorney’s negligence or breach of the duty of care
- Causation of injury
- Actual damages
It is often necessary to hire an expert witness in malpractice cases to establish the duty of care, the former attorney’s breach of duty of care, and causation. It may also be necessary to show that had your lawyer not made certain mistakes, you would have obtained a better result in your underlying case.
What Are “Actual Damages?”
In this case, the term “actual damages” refers to some type of harm you have suffered as a result of the attorney’s actions. For example, if the attorney failed to inform you that the insurance company offered to settle your claim for $100,000 and the company later withdrew the offer, you have incurred actual damages of $100,000.
Is There a Time Limit To Filing a Legal Malpractice Claim?
Yes. California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 340.6 gives you one year after you discover (or reasonably should have discovered) the injury or four years after the date of injury, whichever is earlier, to file a legal malpractice case against your lawyer.
There are exceptions to this time limit, such as if your lawyer committed fraud or you are making a different type of claim, such as a breach of contract. An experienced lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding your claim and explain what time limits apply to your case.
Do you believe your attorney has screwed up your personal injury case? Do you want to terminate legal services and possibly file a claim for malpractice? You could be entitled to money for the harm your lawyer has caused in your case. Contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at (877) 300-4535 to schedule a free consultation.