When you hire a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim, you expect them to protect your best interests. You also expect the lawyer to understand relevant laws and have the skills and knowledge to provide competent, sound legal representation.
Unfortunately, lawyers make mistakes and errors, falling short of our expectations. Some attorneys may act negligently or intentionally engage in wrongdoing. You may have spent a great deal of time researching attorneys in your area, asking for references from friends and family, and checking qualifications.
Even though you took steps to hire the best personal injury attorney for your case, they may fail you. If you placed your trust and faith in a personal injury lawyer who screwed up your case, you may be able to hold the attorney accountable for legal malpractice.
There are No Guarantees for Personal Injury Cases
When you contact a lawyer to discuss a car accident, dog bite claim, medical malpractice case, or slip and fall accident, the attorney cannot guarantee a specific outcome in your case. The attorney may do everything correctly. They may have done everything within their power to win the case–but the outcome might not be what you desired.
In some cases, the law is not on your side or you may not have sufficient evidence to prove the legal elements to win your case. You could have had unrealistic expectations for the outcome of your case, and you are now disappointed. In most cases, the outcome in a personal injury case is not due to mistakes or errors that an attorney makes when handling the case.
However, when an attorney makes a mistake or commits legal malpractice, the outcome can be devastating to the client. The client may receive nothing for the injury claim, resulting in a severe financial hardship for the client.
Examples of Legal Malpractice in Maryland
Legal malpractice can take many forms. The common factor is that the client is harmed because of an attorney’s negligence, wrongdoing, or an error.
Examples of potential legal malpractice in a personal injury case include, but are not limited to:
- Failing to calculate and monitor the deadlines for filing claims and lawsuits under the Statutes of Limitations
- Mishandling the client’s funds (trust account)
- Failing to conduct a conflict of interest check before accepting a case
- Failing to disclose a conflict of interest before accepting a case
- Violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys
- Missing deadlines for filing claims, court documents, or lawsuits
- Failing to conduct a thorough investigation into the client’s claim
- Making mathematical errors that result in harm to the client
- Failing to submit requests for discovery, including interrogatories, requests to produce, and request to admit
- Failing to conduct depositions and interviews of eyewitnesses
- Practicing law under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Accepting or declining a settlement offer without the client’s consent
- Failing to communicate with the client
- Mishandling or losing evidence or documents
- Failing to conduct legal research, including analyzing applicable laws, statutes, and rules
The above list does not include all actions or omissions by a lawyer that could constitute a legal malpractice case.
Proving a Legal Malpractice Claim
As with medical malpractice, poor outcomes in a legal case does not mean that the attorney committed legal malpractice. The circumstances and facts of the case must be considered to determine if malpractice occurred.
When filing a legal malpractice claim, you must prove each of the following elements to be successful with your claim:
The Lawyer Had a Duty of Care
All attorneys owe their clients a duty of care to act in their clients’ best interests. Until you hire the attorney, the lawyer does not owe you a duty of care. In most cases, a signed retainer agreement is sufficient to prove that you had an attorney-client relationship and that the lawyer owed you a duty of care.
Breach of the Duty of Care
Breaching the duty of care might occur because of an attorney’s negligence, errors, mistakes, or omissions. The attorney may also breach the duty of care through intentional wrongdoing.
It can be difficult to determine whether an attorney’s actions rose to the level of a breach of the duty of care. In most cases, you must prove that the attorney failed to act with reasonable care. Reasonable care is based on the acceptable standard of care for the particular situation.
In addition to proving that the attorney breached the duty of care, you must prove that the breach was a direct cause of harm to you.
For example, the attorney failed to contact each of your medical providers to gather final bills for medical care after a pedestrian accident. The failure to verify final medical bills reduced the value of your personal injury claim.
Another example would be missing a deadline to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death claim. Because the attorney missed the filing deadline, you lost your right to pursue a claim through the courts.
The attorney’s actions must have resulted in damages to win a legal malpractice claim. In many cases, legal malpractice in personal injury cases results in loss of financial compensation.
In the examples above, the clients would have been unable to recover compensation for their damages. Damages in a legal malpractice claim would be the amount of money they could have received if the attorney has not committed malpractice.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Legal Malpractice?
You can attempt to discuss the matter with your attorney. The matter could be a misunderstanding between you and your lawyer. Your lawyer may be able to correct the matter so that you are not harmed or damaged.
If you cannot resolve the matter with your lawyer, organize all documents and evidence that you have regarding your case. You have the right to request a copy of your file from your lawyer. You can seek advice from another lawyer or contact the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.
Contact Our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you have been injured in an accident in Maryland, we want to help. We can review your case and provide an honest assessment. We will explain your legal rights and options for seeking compensation for damages.
Contact our office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer. You are under no obligation to hire our law firm for legal services after your consultation.