Attorneys are trusted to advocate for the best interests of their clients, leveraging their experience and skills to seek the most advantageous outcome. Although no lawyer can absolutely guarantee the outcome of a particular case, every lawyer is expected to be competent, ethical, professional, and dedicated to the client. When this doesn’t happen the client can make a case for legal malpractice.
But malpractice isn’t merely an abstract concept; it has real-world consequences for the aggrieved client. Stanfield Bechtel Law takes a look at the impact of legal malpractice and the damages that may be claimed against the negligent attorney or law firm.
Missing a statute of limitations
A classic example of legal malpractice is an attorney who negligently fails to file a lawsuit or claim by a certain date, allowing the statute of limitations (deadline) to file and thereby barring the claim forever. For example, in Connecticut, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years from the date of the accident. Statutes of limitations are unforgiving and, once they expire, destroy the client’s case.
Lost monetary compensation
Missing out on a legal claim because the statute of limitations has run can cost the client substantial sums of monetary compensation in the form of damages. Take, for instance, a catastrophic truck accident that has left the victim paralyzed. The victim will be faced with significant medical bills, lost wages, and possibly the end of a career (which will cost years of future income, benefits, and more). That’s to say nothing of the pain and suffering, decreased quality of life, and other harms for which non-economic damages could have been sought had the attorney done his or her job.
Less monetary compensation
The attorney may have filed the client’s civil case on time and even litigated or settled it to the client’s benefit. But that doesn’t mean the client wasn’t harmed by attorney negligence. Although there is no threshold of monetary compensation that dictates whether legal malpractice has occurred, there are cases in which the attorney should have sought more damages but failed to. For example, a personal injury attorney may not have considered the future medical needs that an automobile accident victim will have. By not seeking those from the insurance company or a jury, the client may have missed out on a great deal of money.
Presenting a weak case
Attorneys should be competent to handle a client’s case or decline to do so. An attorney who doesn’t understand a particular area of law is less likely to present a strong case. On the other hand, an attorney may be experienced but fail to take a critical step like uncovering evidence that another party could and should have been named as a defendant. A weak case could result in a dismissed lawsuit or an adverse jury verdict.
Failure to avail oneself of one’s legal rights
A diligent attorney will let a client know what his or her rights are so action can be taken to exercise those rights. For instance, a father may be failing to pay a mother child support. The lawyer representing the mother should advise her of the various options she has, such as filing a motion for contempt, to hold the father accountable and start receiving child support. Lawyers have a duty to let clients know their legal options so they can take advantage of them.
Possible damages in a Connecticut legal malpractice claim
As a general matter, plaintiffs who file a Connecticut legal malpractice claim can ask for the following damages:
- Compensatory: as the name implies, these damages compensate plaintiffs for their losses. This category is further broken down into economic damages (financial losses that are relatively easy to calculate) and non-economic damages (non-financial losses like emotional distress, the calculation of which is more subjective)
- Punitive damages: in some cases, a court may award these to punish a negligent lawyer or law firm for particularly harmful, malicious, or egregious behavior
- Legal costs: plaintiffs may also seek attorney fees, court costs, and filing fees
Were You the Victim of Legal Malpractice? Contact Us to Begin Your Claim
If your attorney was unethical or acted in such a way that harmed your legal case, you may be able to file a malpractice claim. To learn more and to get started, reach out to Stanfield Bechtel Law. We can review your circumstances, advise you of your options, and get started on your case today.