Has a mistake turned into malpractice? Here's what to look for

You decided to work with your current attorney because of a referral from your friend. Your friend had a case similar to yours in the past, and the attorney was able to help them get a fantastic settlement.

You would be happy if your case worked out the same way, but you're having a hard time reaching your attorney. Every time you speak, it seems like they don't know your case well and are making excuses. You are frustrated, and for good reason.

At this point, you want to move on, but is it time to get a new attorney? Did this one make mistakes over which you could pursue a claim?

At what point does a simple mistake turn into malpractice?

Most people realize that attorneys, like everyone else, are human. Mistakes may be made, but as long as they are caught and corrected, most won't have a negative impact on a client's case.

Unfortunately, there are some attorneys who will not realize that they made errors or who will completely ignore their responsibility to their clients.

Mistakes do have consequences and may become malpractice when:

  • The attorney was negligent and did not act within the standard of care expected by the legal community.
  • The mistake led to damages, such as being unable to continue the case or losing the case.
  • The damages were significant. For instance, if the client loses their right to a personal injury claim after a car crash, they could have significant damages as a result.

As someone who has been working with an attorney, you should note any red flags and speak up when you see them. That call you made that wasn't returned for two weeks? That's something to discuss with your attorney immediately. Express that you expect quality communication within a reasonable time frame.

Did your attorney make a mistake but try to cover it up? Explain that you are unhappy with how they're handling your case, and ask them how they're going to correct the problem. If they are unable or unwilling, then it may be time to move on to a new attorney.

Legal malpractice can end up costing you your case, so speak up early. If you notice unusual behavior from your attorney, like poor communication or seeming like they have no idea how to handle your case, then it's time to move on and speak with another attorney about their actions.

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