Those who hire an attorney only to have their case dismissed or lost because their interests were not well represented may have a legal malpractice case. It is important to act promptly, as there are time limits. Follow these two steps to help navigate this issue.
#1: Know that it happened.
This may be the most difficult part. Did you simply lose the case, or were you the victim of legal malpractice? Answering this question is not always easy. It can help to know some common causes of malpractice. These can include:
- Conflict of interest. This may be present if the attorney had a relationship with opposing counsel or otherwise finds themselves with competing duties.
- Commingling. State law requires attorneys to keep funds from clients separate from their own, private funds. A failure to do so is a breach of the attorney’s fiduciary duty to their client.
- Neglect. This occurs when there is a failure to actively work on the case or otherwise disregard their duty to represent their client.
These are just a few of the more common examples to consider. Anyone that believes they have a strong case and their chosen legal representation failed to properly represent their interests may have a case.
#2: Know the state law.
The time limit, referred to as the statute of limitations, is an area that is governed by state law. As a result, the answer could vary depending on where you live. In California, those who are looking to move forward with a legal malpractice claim generally have one year from the discovery of the legal malpractice to file the lawsuit.
Unfortunately, the application of this statute can be complicated. As discussed in more detail in another post, available here, there are instances when the victim may have more than one year to file their claim.