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What Is Attorney Malpractice?

Malpractice arises when a lawyer fails to perform his responsibilities in a competent manner.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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Attorneys are expected to provide competent legal services to their clients. If an attorney fails to do so and causes his client to suffer damages as a result, this may be considered attorney malpractice. A consumer can sue an attorney for malpractice. He will have to prove his case, however, by demonstrating that the attorney made mistakes that harmed him legally. For example, if an attorney fails to file paperwork in a timely manner and that causes his client to lose his case, his failure to file may be considered attorney malpractice.

Attorney malpractice can be separated into a few basics categories, which include negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. An attorney's acts may be considered negligent if he failed to perform his duties with the skill one would expect from the average attorney. If his below-average performance causes his client damages, his client may sue him for attorney malpractice.

Sometimes attorneys put their own interests ahead of the needs of their clients. This situation is referred to as a breach of fiduciary duty. If a consumer believes that his lawyer pushed his interests aside in favor of his own, the client may accuse the attorney of malpractice.

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When an attorney agrees to take on a client’s case, the two typically sign a contract detailing the duties, responsibilities, and rights of each party. If the attorney fails to perform the duties listed in the contract, he may be accused of a type of attorney malpractice called breach of contract. The client may sue the attorney for the damages caused by the breach.

Besides these basic types of malpractice, a client may also sue an attorney for other mistakes he makes in a case. For example, an attorney may miss court dates or fail to meet important deadlines. He may forget to send documents or send them to the wrong individual. These blunders can hurt a client’s case and give him grounds to sue for attorney malpractice.

An attorney may also face a lawsuit for attorney malpractice if he settles a case without first obtaining the client’s permission. Also, if after winning a case, the attorney pays his client from his own account and the check bounces, this may count as malpractice as well. An attorney may even be charged with malpractice after failing to return client phone calls or failing to respond to other contact attempts for a long period of time.

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Discuss this Article

literally45
Post 3

@feruze-- I'm thinking about filing an attorney malpractice case but I'm not entirely sure if I'm eligible yet. I know that my attorney had a clash of interest. He didn't do everything he was supposed to as per our contract and he didn't win the case. But that's not enough to prove malpractice. I'm going to meet someone from the bar association next week to discuss my situation and whether I have enough to file a case.

I'm not sure if I should even if I'm eligible. It may cost a lot and if I can't prove malpractice, I will end up losing more money.

ddljohn
Post 2

@feruze-- No, by definition, any professional who doesn't comply with the standard of conduct of that profession, can be charged with malpractice. This can be a doctor, an attorney, even an accountant.

The important part is whether the professional acted against code of conduct and whether this can be proven in court.

What I find funny is that there are legal malpractice attorneys. People hire attorneys to sue their previous attorneys.

bear78
Post 1

I thought that malpractice only applied to doctors, since their negligence can cause a patient serious physical harm. I didn't know that attorneys can be guilty of malpractice too.

Has anyone here ever filed an attorney malpractice suit? What was your reasons for doing so?

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