Legal malpractice lawsuits in Florida and around the country are most commonly filed because of conflict of interest issues, according to a 2018 survey of the nation’s leading insurers. Seven of the nine insurance companies polled reported that conflict of interest was either the first or second cause of action in most legal malpractice claims. The insurers surveyed provide coverage to 80% of America’s most prominent law firms.
The results of the insurance company survey suggest that law firms could reduce the likelihood of legal malpractice lawsuits significantly by screening job applicants more thoroughly for potential conflict issues. About half of the insurers cited conflict of interest claims involving attorneys who had switched firms or been taken on during a merger or acquisition. The survey reveals that the practice areas with the highest number of legal malpractice claims are corporate transactions, securities, estate planning and real estate.
The monetary value of legal malpractice claims is growing. All of the insurers polled reported paying claims in excess of $500,000, and more than half of them paid more than $50 million to settle a single claim. Two insurers reported paying nine-figure claims. The rising value of claims was attributed to higher attorney fees and soaring discovery costs. Several of the insurers expressed concerns about coverage levels that could be inadequate based on these figures.
Attorneys with experience in legal malpractice law could assist those who feel that they have been let down by their lawyers. Attorneys have a fiduciary relationship with their clients and are expected to act in their best interests. When this fiduciary duty is breached, lawyers may face both professional and civil sanctions. Attorneys may also face malpractice lawsuits if they draft defective documents, make errors during a trial, fail to uncover crucial information during the discovery process or allow the statute of limitations to pass before taking action.