100 years + of collective legal malpractice experience

A missed legal deadline can gravely harm a client’s interests

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Duty of Care, Failure to Meet Deadlines, Legal Malpractice, Litigation Malpractice, Statute of Limitations |

When something is important enough to seek the representation of a lawyer, you expect professionalism, skill, knowledge and the ability to help you reach your goals or fix your problem. What you do not anticipate is that legal counsel could make a basic mistake that could cause you financial or personal loss – like missing a legal deadline.

Failing to file a lawsuit on time

Maybe the most obviously harmful missed deadline is the failure to file a lawsuit on time, called missing the statute of limitations. The lawyer may neglect to timely file for any of a number of reasons or they may not have done adequate legal research to know the correct deadline date.

This normally extinguishes the right to file suit on behalf of a client for their injury or harm. Many legal malpractice claims are brought on this basis, but finding a knowledgeable legal malpractice lawyer to represent the client in the subsequent attorney negligence claim is important. While failure to file a lawsuit on time breaches the duty of care to the client, the lawyer’s negligence must have caused the client harm to recover.

In litigation malpractice, this means plaintiff must show they would have recovered damages in the original case had the lawyer timely filed. This case-within-a-case can be a complex one to bring and may require expert testimony. An experienced attorney can be especially important in this situation.

Legal scenarios where deadlines are critical

Examples of other kinds of legal deadlines that can harm a client if missed:

  • Failure in active litigation to file, serve or respond on time to complaints, notices, affidavits or other pleadings, or to make or respond to motions in the court process
  • Inadequate or delayed investigation of factual circumstances may mean that other legal claims are not discovered before their deadlines have passed
  • Failure to appeal a lost lawsuit or agency appeal on time
  • Failure to timely submit a creditor’s claim in a bankruptcy or estate proceeding
  • Late filing with government agencies or courts on behalf of a client such as tax returns, securities disclosures, periodic guardian or conservator reporting, public benefit applications, administrative appeals, liens or any of many others
  • And others

Law firms have technology to help prevent missed deadlines

Of course, attorneys have historically kept calendars to help them stay on top of their deadlines. But in this time of cutting-edge technology, law firms and solo practitioners normally purchase case management or scheduling software that includes calendaring systems. Lawyers and staff receive electronic ticklers and reminders of upcoming deadlines.

It is likely that a reasonable lawyer practicing in deadline-driven areas of law would have such a system and that failure to install one or keep it current would breach the duty of care to a client if this caused a missed deadline.

Talk to a legal malpractice attorney if you suspect you were harmed by a previous lawyer who missed a legal deadline to your detriment.