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What Constitutes Malpractice by an Attorney?

June 11, 2020


When you have been the victim of someone else’s negligence and suffered injuries as a result, a personal injury attorney can help you hold an at-fault party accountable and secure the compensation you need for the damages you’ve suffered as a result of your injuries. But what happens when your lawyer represents you or handles your case in a negligent manner. Just like any other professional, an attorney can commit negligence (commonly called malpractice) in the course of his or her duties to a client. When a lawyer commits malpractice, his or her client may suffer serious financial harm. 

It is important to understand what constitutes malpractice by an attorney. Just because you were not happy with your attorney’s performance or you did not receive the outcome you expected or hoped for does not mean your attorney committed malpractice. If you’ve had a less than favorable experience with a legal matter handled by an attorney, you need to understand how to spot whether your lawyer has committed malpractice.

What Is Legal Negligence?

Negligence, generally speaking, is the failure to exercise care that another reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances. In the context of legal services, legal negligence or legal malpractice would be a lawyer failing to exercise the due care that another lawyer of similar training and experience would exercise under the same circumstances of your case. In addition, the lawyer’s failure to exercise due care must cause you to suffer some form of compensable harm. 

Examples of legal malpractice include:

  • Failing to meet filing deadlines for complaints, motions, petitions, etc.
  • Failing to spot and correct mistakes in legal documents and filings
  • Failing to gather evidence that could have an impact on the outcome of your legal matter
  • Failing to appear in court
  • Failing to contact witnesses or experts who could help with your case

When a lawyer neglects his or her duties to his or her client, they may have committed legal malpractice.

How Do You Prove Your Attorney Committed Malpractice?

A claim for legal malpractice requires you to prove four specific elements:

  1. You had an attorney-client relationship with the lawyer –– This might be established if you had a written fee agreement, or could be shown through your conduct and communications with the attorney
  2. Your attorney breached his or her duty of care –– You will typically need experts in legal duties and ethics to testify as to what a reasonable attorney would have done in your case and how your attorney’s conduct failed to comport with this duty of care
  3. Your attorney’s negligence caused or substantially contributed to damages — If the outcome of your case would not have been any different even if your attorney had exercised due care, then you do not have a claim for legal malpractice; you must show that your attorney’s conduct is what caused you to suffer a negative outcome in your underlying legal matter
  4. You suffered compensable damages — You must have suffered some form of financial loss or other damages that you can be financially compensated for, in order to have a viable legal malpractice claim

What to Do If Your Attorney Has Committed Legal Malpractice

Although it can be difficult to turn to another attorney when your lawyer has caused you to suffer damages and financial harm, having an experienced legal malpractice attorney to represent you can give you the best chance at securing the compensation you deserve. Ideally, you should find an attorney who not only has experience handling legal malpractice cases but specifically has experience handling your underlying legal matter (personal injury, medical malpractice, etc.) or experience specifically handling legal malpractice cases arising from those matters.

Contact A Legal Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one harmed by legal malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced legal malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh legal malpractice attorneys at Quinn Logue LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent attorneys throughout Pennsylvania, including Penn Hills Township, Mount Lebanon Township, Bethel Park, and Ross Township. Call us today at (412) 765-3800 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 200 First Avenue, Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, as well as an office in Scranton.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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