My Attorney Screwed Up My Personal Injury Case…What Are My Rights?

No one wants to find out that their lawyer made a mistake. It can be devastating, not only emotionally but also financially. You may have to pay additional legal fees, and, in some cases, you may even lose your case. 

If you have been the victim of legal malpractice, it is important to take action. The first thing you should do is contact another attorney to get a second opinion. If the second attorney believes your case was indeed mishandled, you may have a malpractice claim against the first attorney.

What You Should Expect From a Competent Personal Injury Lawyer

Hiring a personal injury lawyer is an important decision. You need someone who is knowledgeable in the law and who will work tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome. But what exactly should you expect from your personal injury lawyer? 

First and foremost, your personal injury lawyer is there to give you legal advice and guidance. They will evaluate your case and help you determine what the best course of action is. They will also help you understand the legal process and what you can expect at each stage. 

Your personal injury lawyer will also be responsible for gathering evidence and building your case. This may involve interviewing witnesses, obtaining medical records, and more. In some cases, your lawyer may even hire expert witnesses to testify on your behalf. 

Your lawyer will also handle all communication with the insurance company and the other party’s lawyer. This includes negotiating a settlement on your behalf. In many cases, this is able to be done without having to go to court. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, then your personal injury lawyer will take your case to trial. 

As you can see, there is a lot that your personal injury lawyer should do for you. If they aren’t doing this and you’ve had an unsuccessful outcome in your case as a result, you may be able to hold your lawyer legally responsible. They could be guilty of legal malpractice. 

Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer violates the duties owed to their client. These duties include things like loyalty, confidentiality, and diligence. When a lawyer breaches these duties, they can be held liable for any damages that result.

There are four elements that must be present for a legal malpractice claim to be successful: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

  • Duty: The first element that must be present in a legal malpractice claim is duty. The lawyer must owe the client a duty of care. This duty arises out of the lawyer-client relationship and requires the lawyer to exercise the skill, prudence, and diligence that lawyers of ordinary skill and capacity commonly possess and exercise in similar matters. 
  • Breach: The second element that must be present is a breach of duty. The breach is established by showing that the lawyer failed to exercise the skill, prudence, and diligence that lawyers of ordinary skill and capacity commonly possess and exercise in similar matters. The breach can also be established by showing that the lawyer violated a rule or law governing lawyers, such as a rule prohibiting dishonest or fraudulent conduct. 
  • Causation: The third element that must be present is causation. Causation means that, but for the lawyer’s breach of duty, the client would not have suffered the injury or losses. In other words, there must be a causal connection between the lawyer’s breach of duty and the client’s injury or damages. 
  • Damages: The fourth and final element that must be present is damage. Damages are the losses suffered by the client as a result of the lawyer’s breach of duty. To recover damages in a legal malpractice claim, the claimant must show that they actually suffered some type of financial harm.  

These elements are similar to those that must be proven as part of a personal injury claim as well.

Unfortunately, there are many ways that lawyers can make mistakes that will cost you time, money, and stress. Here are some of the most common types of legal malpractice that occur in personal injury cases:

  • Breaching Fiduciary Duty. All lawyers owe their clients a fiduciary duty, which means that they must act in their clients’ best interests at all times. Unfortunately, some lawyers breach this duty by putting their own interests ahead of their clients’. 

For example, a lawyer might recommend a course of action that is not in your best interests but will result in a larger legal fee for the lawyer. 

  • Negligence. Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would under the circumstances. In other words, it’s falling below the standard of care. Legal negligence can take many different forms, but some common examples include missing filing deadlines, forgetting to conduct important discovery, or failing to investigate potential witnesses. If your lawyer has been negligent in your case, you may be able to file a claim against them. 
  • Violating Attorney-Client Privilege. The attorney-client privilege is a rule that protects communications between lawyers and their clients from being disclosed without the client’s consent. This protection exists so that clients can feel free to give their lawyers complete and honest information about their cases without fear that those communications will be used against them later on. However, some lawyers violate this privilege by disclosing client confidences without permission or by failing to adequately protect confidential information from being accessed by third parties. 
  • Engaging in Conflicts of Interest A conflict of interest occurs when a lawyer is unable to effectively represent a client due to a conflict of interest based on another current or former client or for any other reason. While it is not always possible to avoid conflicts of interest entirely, lawyers are required to disclose potential conflicts before taking on representation so that their clients can make informed decisions about whether to proceed with representation by that lawyer. 

These are not the only types of legal malpractice. Reach out to our legal team if you believe you might have a claim.

While most lawyers are ethical and honest professionals who have your best interests at heart, there are some who do not practice according to the highest standards. By familiarizing yourself with the common types of legal malpractice described above, you can choose a lawyer with confidence, knowing that you are getting someone who will represent you ethically and professionally. 

If you believe your lawyer has committed legal malpractice and you need help filing a claim against them, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced San Diego legal malpractice attorney. Call us at (619) 777-5555.