Do Lawyers Have To Carry Malpractice Insurance?

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Do Lawyers Have To Carry Malpractice Insurance?

An attorney signing paperwork with a Themis statue in the foreground.

Legal malpractice insurance offers essential protection to both attorneys and their clients if something goes wrong in your case, but do lawyers have to carry malpractice insurance? Unfortunately, the answer in Texas is NO!

In this comprehensive article, Ross Sears of Sears Crawford is here to talk about everything legal malpractice insurance, including why it is important, what it covers, and how to find out if your attorney carries it.

Ross has been suing lawyers who have committed malpractice and harmed their clients for over 30 years. If anyone knows the importance of legal malpractice insurance — or how to spot when lawyers who don’t carry it commit legal malpractice — it’s Ross.

If your previous lawyer didn’t carry legal malpractice insurance and you suffered harm because of what they did or didn’t do, call Ross at Sears Crawford at (713) 223-3333 and ask him to sue your lawyer for malpractice.

Is legal malpractice insurance required for lawyers?

Unfortunately, because the law in Texas does not require attorneys to carry malpractice insurance, many practicing lawyers in Texas do not to carry legal malpractice insurance. We wish that every practicing attorney in the state would carry malpractice insurance, but as it stands only about 50-60% of attorneys in Texas carry malpractice insurance.

Although many other professions require professionals to furnish liability insurance in order to practice, attorneys are not required to do so in Texas. As a general rule of thumb, solo practitioners are much less likely to carry insurance than those working with a firm.

As a result of this fact, you should never hire a lawyer who is a “solo-practitioner” (the only attorney in the firm or on the letterhead) unless you first ask them and confirm that they carry malpractice insurance. This is so critically important that it is worth saying again: never hire an attorney who does not carry malpractice insurance. Always ask them before you hire them, and if they do not carry insurance, then run, don’t walk to another attorney — or contact Ross Sears and he will either help you or get you to someone who can.

At Sears Crawford, we proudly carry malpractice insurance to protect our clients. Although, thankfully we have never had to use it.

How does this affect your decision to hire an attorney? A major complicating factor is that attorneys in Texas aren’t even required to disclose to you whether or not they carry malpractice insurance! This is why it is critically important to ask them, up front, before you hire them.

How to find out if an attorney has malpractice insurance

If attorneys are not required to tell me whether or not they carry malpractice insurance, how am I supposed to tell if they carry it before hiring them? Ask. It’s really as simple as that, and we’ll tell you why.

If a lawyer has malpractice insurance, they will tell you so. They carry malpractice insurance as a way to protect your interests and theirs. They’re proud to carry it and are happy to offer it to you.

If a prospective attorney gives you a cagey answer about malpractice insurance, claims they do not have to tell you whether or not they carry it, or tells you that they don’t need to carry it, your next move becomes easy: run, don’t just walk away, and find an attorney who does carry it.

What does legal malpractice insurance cover?

Legal malpractice insurance is designed to provide coverage for claims arising from any malpractice complaints on behalf of a client. This means that if an attorney makes a mistake in a case and causes the client harm, normally malpractice insurance will make sure that the clients are taken care of.

Legal malpractice insurance, professional liability insurance, and errors and omissions (E&O) insurance are all different forms of legal malpractice coverage that can provide a safety net for attorneys and clients when slip-ups happen.

If attorneys do not have insurance then the attorneys have to pay client claims out of their own pocket, which can be like squeezing blood out of a turnip, if the attorney has no money or assets to cover your claims.

Most clients think all lawyers are rich and don’t need to carry insurance. Not only is this untrue, but many attorneys will not sue an attorney, and even fewer will sue an attorney who is too selfish and self-serving to carry malpractice insurance. Generally speaking, any attorney who does not carry malpractice insurance is either:

  • Looking out for their own interest instead of the client
  • Can’t afford to pay for malpractice insurance
  • Has been sued so many times that they can no longer get insurance

All of which mean that they should be avoided at all costs.

Why wouldn’t an attorney carry malpractice insurance?

It could be money — but how much is legal malpractice insurance in Texas? While we can’t tell you how much Texas legal malpractice insurance costs, because the price varies based on the individual factors of the attorney’s practice, we do know that malpractice insurance costs a lot less than paying out after a malpractice suit, and is a small price to pay for peace of mind for clients.

For the reasons stated above, it is our strong opinion that you can’t trust your case with an attorney who either chooses (selfishly) not to carry malpractice insurance or can’t afford to pay the nominal premium to carry insurance to protect you in case he or she screws up your case.

Continue reading: What is legal malpractice?

What happens if a lawyer doesn’t have insurance?

As we outlined above, not having insurance is unfortunately not an automatic disqualification for an attorney to practice in the state of Texas, but this doesn’t mean that not carrying insurance won’t have serious consequences.

Without insurance, attorneys are held personally responsible for any damages or settlements awarded in malpractice claims. Carrying insurance will make sure that clients are taken care of in these situations, as well as ensure that the lawyer has representation present who can defend their career.

We have a simple question: if an attorney can’t pay for malpractice insurance, how can you expect them to pay you if they make a mistake in your case? The answer is equally simple: you can’t. 

Continue reading: Examples of unethical attorney behavior

What states require lawyers to have malpractice insurance?

You would be surprised how few states require lawyers to carry legal malpractice insurance. A breakdown of the current state of required malpractice insurance for lawyers around the nation is as follows:

  • Idaho requires that attorneys carry malpractice insurance minimums.
  • New Jersey requires that Limited Liability firms carry coverage that scales with the number of attorneys in the firm.
  • Oregon requires all attorneys in private practice to participate in a large insurance fund.
  • All other states do not require that attorneys carry malpractice insurance, but 24 of them require some form of disclosure to clients or regulatory boards.

Although malpractice insurance for lawyers is not a state requirement, you can make it a requirement for your case by only hiring a lawyer who carries legal malpractice insurance. Making sure that your attorney carries malpractice insurance can help protect your interests down the line if anything at all should go wrong in your case.

Wish your lawyer had legal malpractice insurance? Call Ross Sears at Sears Crawford today.

So, do lawyers have to carry malpractice insurance? Unfortunately, in Texas, the answer is no — and we wouldn’t hold our breath on that changing anytime soon. Luckily, you get to pick your attorney, and you can make sure to hire an attorney who carries legal malpractice insurance.

Although it may be awkward, you can ask any prospective attorney whether they carry legal malpractice insurance, and how much. At Sears Crawford, we proudly carry legal malpractice insurance to protect our clients. 

If you’re looking for lawyers that sue lawyers, call Ross Sears, a preeminent legal malpractice attorney in Houston and founding attorney at Sears Crawford. If your previous lawyer didn’t carry malpractice insurance and screwed up your case, call Ross today at (713) 223-3333 or contact us online to see if you have a case.

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