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Can you file a legal malpractice claim for mental incapacity?

by | Sep 27, 2018 | Legal Malpractice |

Attorneys have a duty to ultimately represent their client’s best interests. However, this can prove difficult when the client has some form of mental disorder such as dementia or bipolar disease. Even when the client cannot make logical decisions from their diminished capacity, the attorney must try to have a normal relationship with a client and take necessary precautions in the proceedings.

However, it has led many to question if it could lead towards an act of legal malpractice. An attorney could take advantage of the client’s mental state and aim for a verdict that is more beneficial for themselves than the client. Many Florida residents question if they can sue their lawyer for manipulating them using their mental condition.

Assessing the situation

If the attorney has good reason to suspect the client of being mentally incapable, they should assess the capacity or refer for clinical evaluation to confirm their suspicions as the client’s mental state could be a risk for the proceedings. They must consider factors such as the client’s ability to understand reasoning, the state of their mind and how they perceive the consequences of a major decision.

The assessment is legal to perform, but some clients may find it does more harm than good. There are consequences to the process such as an increase in costs and time delays, which can anger and stress the client regardless of their mental capacity. However, Florida courts recommend they do it if they have some suspicion of their client’s mentality.

Filing a claim

The American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association note that filing a legal malpractice claim on mental incapacity is more possible now as the courts now have increased awareness of the issue. Florida’s courts expect attorneys to take the necessary precautions when dealing with a client with a mental disorder.

However, the client needs proof that they were mentally incapable at the time for the claim to be successful. Recently, a New Jersey woman tried to file a legal malpractice claim when her mental health issues required additional alimony payment a year after her divorce. Despite initially saying the ruling was fair, she later stated that she was suffering from mental impairment and did not understand the full conditions. The court ultimately rejected the claim because she could not prove she was suffering mental instability when she signed the settlement.

If you are aware of any possible mental deficiencies you have, be sure to warn your attorney. If they do not assess your mental state and take advantage of your incapacity, you should consider contacting a lawyer in Florida that specializes in legal malpractice to help you get what you were originally owed.