Most Common Types of Legal Malpractice in Texas
As lawyers that sue other lawyers for malpractice, we handle cases involving many types of legal malpractice. Familiarizing yourself with common types of legal malpractice can help you protect yourself during your case. This article acts as a brief guide to the common types of legal malpractice.
Most of our clients do not immediately notice when their former attorney has committed malpractice against them. At Sears Crawford, our legal malpractice attorneys in Houston are here to help you navigate the complex legal system and fight to right the wrongs your former attorney committed against you.
We sue lawyers in Houston, throughout Texas, and across the country who have failed to represent their clients’ best interests. If you think your former attorney may have committed legal malpractice, contact a lawyer ASAP. The statute of limitations on legal malpractice in Texas is generally two years from the date you discover your attorney’s malpractice.
For more information on the basics of legal malpractice, visit our article What is legal malpractice?
7 common types of legal malpractice
If you plan on suing your lawyer for legal malpractice, it’s important to know what offenses have been committed against you by your former attorney. Here are 7 common types of legal malpractice we see on a regular basis:
1. Breach of fiduciary duty
In terms of an attorney-client relationship, fiduciary duty is the highest duty imposed by law, which means that your attorney is obligated to put your interest ahead of their own. They MUST keep you fully informed on what is happening with your case and be honest at ALL TIMES. In other words, YOU MUST ALWAYS COME FIRST! Some breach of fiduciary duty examples include:
- Conflict of interest: If your attorney places another party’s interests, or their own interests ahead of yours, the client, without fully disclosing the conflict, then they have breached their fiduciary duty to you. This can arise when an attorney goes into business with a client and/or has financial interests that are different or contrary to the client’s interests.
- Confidentiality: Your attorney cannot reveal confidential information regarding your case unless you permit them to do so.
- Self-dealing: When an attorney acts in a manner that benefits the attorney to the detriment of the client.
- Misleading communications: If your attorney is withholding information or intentionally giving you advice that is not true or is less than the “full” truth this can be the basis of a breach of fiduciary duty claim.
Most of the cases we handle at Sears Crawford have to do with negligence on the part of our client’s former attorney. Negligence is a type of legal malpractice typically defined as an attorney “failing to do” something that a reasonable and prudent attorney would have done under the same or similar circumstances. An example of negligence would be missing important deadlines, including failing to file a claim within the legal statute of limitations for your case.
If your attorney was negligent and you suffered damages, including financial loss, due to that attorney’s negligence, then your attorney is liable for legal malpractice.
3. Failure to know/apply the law
This type of legal malpractice tends to occur when lawyers attempt to take on cases outside of their area(s) of expertise. For example, an attorney who primarily practices family and divorce law may have trouble applying the law in a personal injury case.
Your attorney’s inability to apply the law can be detrimental to your case. Be sure the attorney you hire is well-versed or — better yet — board-certified in the area of law in which you are retaining their services.
4. Failure to calendar
These types of legal malpractice claims occur when the attorney misses statutory or other legal deadlines. For example, an attorney can fail to properly calendar deadlines (like a statute of limitations) or fail to even be aware of the deadline to begin with, which results in missed deadlines that cause irreparable harm to the client.
5. Overbilling/Unconscionable Fees
This rather self-explanatory type of legal malpractice stems from an attorney who charges an excessive fee for the services rendered to their clients. Overbilling can occur by lawyers who charge an hourly rate and sometimes even when attorneys work on a contingency fee (a percentage of the recovery). If you believe you have been overcharged for the work your former attorney has done for your case, contact Ross Sears at Sears Crawford to discuss your options.
6. Failure to obtain client consent
When negotiating settlements, your lawyer MUST have your consent before settling your lawsuit. Some attorneys insert language into their contracts that allows them to make decisions regarding the settlement of your case without your input. Read over your contract thoroughly and DO NOT SIGN if you find language that allows your attorney to settle or resolve your case without your input after full disclosure of all facts. If your attorney settled your case without your consent, or failed to fully inform you of all expenses, fees and other deductions, so you know what “your” recovery is after all deductions, then you may be able to pursue a legal malpractice lawsuit against your former attorney.
Fraud occurs in legal malpractice claims when an attorney deceives a client for financial gain. This can take place if the attorney misrepresents a situation or fails to disclose or conceals facts that could persuade the client to make certain decisions. If you have suffered damages, including financial loss, because of fraudulent behavior, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice suit.
Sears Crawford Can Handle All Types of Legal Malpractice
Throughout the years, we have gained significant experience handling all types of legal malpractice. Ross Sears has 30 years of experience successfully handling legal malpractice cases.
If you were a victim of legal malpractice or have questions regarding legal malpractice settlements, contact a trusted legal malpractice attorney in Houston from Sears Crawford to represent you. To schedule a FREE initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 713-223-3333 today.
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