Legal malpractice is a serious threat to a client’s right to fair treatment and due process in the court system. Whether you have a civil or criminal case, you deserve a competent attorney who is dedicated to advocating for your best interests. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. How can you know whether your lawyer has committed malpractice? The attorneys of Stanfield Bechtel Law take a look.
Common signs of legal malpractice
Every case of legal malpractice is different, so the indicators that you’ve been a victim of it may be different than those listed here. But if any of these are present in your legal case, it may be time to speak with an experienced malpractice attorney:
- Your information has not been kept confidential. A fundamental element of the attorney-client relationship is confidentiality. Barring a few limited circumstances, clients are generally entitled to trust that anything they tell their lawyer will be kept private. A breach of confidentiality can undermine your case. If a third party has learned of something that you only told your lawyer, and you never gave express consent to release the information, there’s a good chance malpractice has occurred.
- Your attorney doesn’t understand the law. Attorneys sometimes have to deal with novel or unique legal situations that require them to further investigate the facts and the law before they can render advice. However, if it becomes clear that your attorney is inexperienced in the area of law that concerns your case, he or she may not be competent to handle it. Incompetence is a strong sign of malpractice.
- Your attorney has a conflict of interest. Attorneys should be entirely dedicated to the pursuit of justice and your best interests in a legal case. That requires undivided loyalty to you, the client. A conflict of interest may arise when the lawyer has another client, colleague, friend, or family member on the other side of the case. Another example would be if your lawyer is personally or financially invested in the organization or company you are suing.
- The statute of limitations passes and nothing has been filed. A statute of limitations is a deadline to file a legal cause of action. For example, in Connecticut, you have two years from the date you were injured to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the statute has run and nothing has been filed, you will likely be barred from pursuing the claim.
- You didn’t approve a settlement. Lawyers are required to communicate offers to settle with their clients, and can only approve an offer if the client agrees to it. If your case settles without your approval it is probably due to malpractice. A settlement you did not agree to could irreversibly jeopardize your legal rights and interests.
How to protect yourself in the event of malpractice
If you believe malpractice has been committed, taking swift action will be important to protecting your rights. These are a few steps you should take:
- Request a response from your attorney and don’t be afraid to ask questions and express your concerns
- Learn as many details about the malpractice as you can by speaking with individuals who may have personal knowledge of the underlying events (e.g. a third party who gained access to attorney-client confidential information)
- Document everything you can related to the lawyer’s actions, including emails, written correspondence, court filings, and dates and times of phone calls between you and the attorney
- Document everything you can about the underlying legal case (e.g. your personal injury lawsuit) so you can prove you have (or had) a viable claim
- If the statute of limitations has not run and your lawsuit hasn’t yet been filed, speak right away with another lawyer who is competent to handle the case
Lastly, retain a knowledgeable legal malpractice attorney at your earliest convenience.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Take Action
As with other civil cases, there is a statute of limitations for legal malpractice claims. In Connecticut, the deadline is three years from the date the claim arose. But that date can be disputed and it’s better to act sooner rather than later to build a strong case. You can get started today by reaching out to Stanfield Bechtel Law.