Sometimes, numbers speak louder than words. And a recent study found a growing expense in legal malpractice claims against large law firms across the United States, resulting in payouts of over $50 million during 2017.
According to Broker Ames and Gough, five significant insurers made payouts in 2017 that exceeded $50 million, while one paid out an excess of $150 million. While the number of claims remains consistent, the expense is continuing to expand due to complex review processes and the hidden price of a defense.
Law firms are suffering from the vast expense it takes to combat legal malpractice suits, while defendants see a burden on their wallets as they hire new lawyers to take on these massive claims.
But what classifies as legal malpractice?
Legal malpractice cases rely on an attorney's ability to perform their duties for clients. They need to prescribe to specific standards and guidelines set by the American Bar Association's Rules of Professional Conduct.
If they act unethically or unprofessionally, they are vulnerable to lawsuits from clients. A successful claim could result in an attorney losing their practicing license. However, you have to prove four elements:
1. The lawyer owed a duty to provide competent representation.
2. They acted carelessly or made a massive mistake.
3. Their mistake caused harm or injury.
4. The harm resulted in a financial loss.
A small mistake in one document does not classify as legal malpractice. Even if you are unhappy with your lawyer's representation, it may not qualify as malpractice. Their actions have to violate their code of professional or ethical responsibility.
If you are concerned about a current lawyer and their work on a case, you are allowed to leave the lawyer or express your concerns via letter or email. If the lawyer dismisses the concerns and makes a mistake, you may be able to seek an appeal or lawsuit.