One thing you should know before filing a legal malpractice claim

You're driving to work, minding your own business. Suddenly, an SUV swerves across the median and slams into your driver's side door. You wind up in the hospital, unable to work for months. So you decide to take matters into your own hands: you sue.

You hire a lawyer and start laying the groundwork for your case. You spend time and money you don't have to spare. Then you get to court, and the judge rules in the other driver's favor! How could this have happened? You didn't get the compensation you deserve, and you feel cheated. Now you're left wondering whether this disappointing outcome could actually be your lawyer's fault.

Is this a case of legal malpractice?

"Legal malpractice" refers to a situation in which a lawyer's behavior fails to uphold the standards of professional and ethical conduct. Not getting your desired outcome in a case isn't enough to constitute legal malpractice by itself. According to Florida law, in a legal malpractice case, you must be able to demonstrate all of the following:

  • The attorney's employment
  • That the attorney acted with neglect of a reasonable duty
  • That this negligence was the proximate cause of your loss

This last element--proximate cause--is a key factor that most people don't realize can make or break a legal malpractice claim. Proximate cause shows a direct cause-and-effect relationship between your lawyer's negligence and you losing the case. In other words, you have to be able to prove not only that your lawyer made a mistake in your case, but also that if it weren't for this negligence, you would have won.

If you believe you have a case for legal malpractice, first consider whether your situation meets the above criteria. Then talk to an experienced legal malpractice attorney for further guidance.

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