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Elements necessary for a legal malpractice claim

If you needed help with a car crash claim, addressing a doctor’s negligence or tax planning, the chances are good that you hired a lawyer. Unfortunately, your case didn’t turn out as you hoped. Although everyone, even New York attorneys, make mistakes, sometimes the error may justify a legal malpractice lawsuit.

Losing a case does not indicate malpractice on its own. According to the American Bar Association, a legal malpractice claim must show that the attorney was negligent, that the mistake caused damage and the damages were significant.

Duty of care

Attorneys must possess and exercise a degree of skill and understanding of the law common to other legal professionals in their geographic area, practicing similar areas of law. The law does not require infallibility, but it does demand an understanding of the rules and legal principles. A lawyer’s duty of care requires a reasonable degree of skill and judgment when acting according to the law on their client’s behalf. To recover damages for negligence, you must show that the attorney failed to exercise an appropriate level of skill and knowledge.

Proximate cause

When filing a legal malpractice suit, you must demonstrate that you would have had a better result in the underlying matter, the case for which you hired the attorney, if not for the lawyer’s negligence. If your attorney stopped working on your case, didn’t return calls, missed deadlines or other types of mishandling, you may gather evidence that indicates legal malpractice. Understanding what constitutes incompetent legal counsel can help you determine whether you have an actionable case.