What happens when a lawyer forgets to file a lawsuit?

When you hire an attorney, you expect them to provide legal counsel. If they say you have a case and state that they will begin the process and file it with the court on your behalf, you believe them. You pay the bill and expect some updates, but attorneys are busy, so you do not get too worried when updates are infrequent — especially when the updates show progress.

This was the basic fact pattern in a case for a man out of New York who believed his attorney had filed a wrongful termination suit on his behalf. The attorney advised his client that he filed the case with the court. Even years later, when the client questioned why he had yet to get his day in court, the attorney claimed the delay was no concern but instead the result of a rescheduled hearing date and issues with the discovery process. In reality, the attorney never even took the first step. The attorney had never filed the lawsuit.

Why is this a problem? Couldn’t you just get a new attorney and file anyway?

In some cases, yes. In others, it may be too late. Many legal claims have a time limit for when the injured party can file the lawsuit. State law refers to this time limit as the statute of limitations. If missed, it is unlikely the victim could file the lawsuit. They basically miss their chance.

Is there any other way for the injured party to still get the legal remedies they deserve?

It is possible to hold the attorney accountable for their failures through a legal malpractice lawsuit. This can result in the award of financial compensation to help offset those lost because of the attorney’s errors.

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