Attorneys are not immune to making mistakes or being negligent. For clients, these mistakes or negligence can lead to serious problems, though. An attorney who doesn't return phone calls could cause a client to lose trust and eventually the case due to missing the statute of limitations.
An unresponsive attorney could fail to show up at a court date due to a conflict or because he or she is unaware of the date at all. These are only a couple of examples of how attorneys can make mistakes that negatively impact their clients.
The good news for clients is that attorneys do normally pay for malpractice insurance. If you need to file a complaint against an attorney and take him or her to court, the coverage he or she has makes it more likely that you can obtain compensation for the errors your attorney made.
How much coverage should attorneys have?
Attorneys all need different levels of coverage depending on what they do and how experienced they are. The amount of insurance needed varies based on case load, the potential amount of damages for each case and defense costs that could arise. Attorneys also have to obtain coverage that is high enough to protect their personal assets, since a judgment against them could cost them their personal assets if the insurance does not cover enough of what is owed to the client.
Policies also offer per-claim limits and multiple-claim limits. You might opt to have $1 million in coverage per claim or a maximum of $3 million for all claims during a policy period. Additionally, attorneys have to consider that these funds deplete, meaning that every dollar spent on defense or other fees eat away at the amount left for a potential judgment. This could end up leaving them without enough money to cover the client's favorable judgment, making the attorney pay out of pocket or with his or her assets.
What should you do if you think you're a victim of legal malpractice?
Potential victims of legal malpractice likely need to work with a new attorney to determine if the case has merit and should move forward. While it's tempting not to work with another attorney, doing so gives you the best chance of a successful case against the attorney who violated your trust, misused your funds or lost your case due to negligence or mistakes that shouldn't have been made.