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How much recovery is possible in a legal malpractice claim?

Our legal system allows victims the ability to hold those who cause harm accountable, financially, through a civil lawsuit. These civil cases, like personal injury lawsuits, can lead to compensation to help cover the expenses that result from the accident. But what happens when the lawyer that was supposed to represent the case makes a mistake that makes it impossible to move forward?

Depending on the details, the victim may be able to hold the lawyer accountable through a legal malpractice case. Which leads to another question: how much can the victim expect the lawyer to pay?

In a recent case, the lawyer tried to argue that the victim could only expect the amount available if the original case was successful.

Details of the case

In this case, car accident case, a woman sought legal counsel to hold the negligent driver accountable for the accident, hoping to get funds to help cover the expenses from medical bills and lost wages. Her claim appeared solid. Upon review, it looked like she should be able to get at least a portion of the funds. Unfortunately, her attorney made a mistake.

There is a time limit to file most claims. This statute of limitations, or time limit, can vary but is generally a couple of years after the accident that led to the injury. The attorney missed this deadline.

The woman decided to hold the attorney accountable for missing the deadline. During the case, the attorney argued that the woman could only hold him accountable for the amount she would have gotten from the personal injury case. He stated the recovery should be capped at the policy limit, $30,000. He further stated that the driver in the auto case would not have been able to any more than the $30,000 limit — arguing that this should further support his claim that the court cap the recovery at $30,000.

The court disagreed. Ultimately, the judge decided that the lawyer’s collectability argument, that the woman could only collect a certain amount, was not valid.

It is important to note this case applied Louisiana state law, and the outcome may not be the same in a different state. However, the case provides an example of the different considerations to take into account when moving these cases forward.