Every lawyer in the state of Texas owes a Fiduciary Duty to their clients, meaning that the lawyer MUST always put the client’s interest first. The attorney-client relationship is built upon this Fiduciary Duty, and if that duty is breached, that attorney should be held accountable for their actions.
There are many reasons to file a lawsuit against an attorney, but not all point to malpractice. The reality is that even the most skilled attorneys can make mistakes that affect the client’s case — and some attorneys are capable of doing bad things. If you want to get the justice you deserve, you need to know what constitutes legal malpractice by talking to a top legal malpractice attorney like Ross Sears.
Here are some of the most common types of legal malpractice that Sears Crawford has seen over the years:
1. Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Fiduciary duty is the highest duty imposed by law and is the foundation of every attorney-client relationship. Your attorney must be completely honest with you and keep you informed of the specifics of your case at ALL TIMES. A common example of this breach of duty is a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest occurs when your attorney places another party’s interests, or their own interests, ahead of yours, breaching their fiduciary duty to you.
Be sure that your attorney carries legal malpractice insurance. If an attorney has legal malpractice insurance, it shows they are taking responsible steps to protect the client’s interest in case malpractice were to occur.
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 (failure to calendar), 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
When you hire an attorney, you expect them to be an expert in that area of the law — unfortunately, that may not be the case. Failure to know and apply the law occurs when an attorney attempts to take on cases outside of their area(s) of expertise. For example, an attorney who primarily practices divorce law may have trouble applying the law in a personal injury case. This can be detrimental to the outcome of your case, which is why hiring an attorney who is board-certified in the field of law relating to your case is EXTREMELY important.
Keep reading: How do I find a good malpractice lawyer?
4. Overbilling and/or unconscionable fees
This type of legal malpractice occurs when an attorney charges an excessive fee for the services rendered to their clients. Overbilling can occur by lawyers who charge an hourly rate or even when attorneys work on a contingency fee (a percentage of the recovery). If you come across an attorney contract that contains a contingency fee, do not sign it. If you believe you were overcharged for your legal services, speak to Ross Sears of Sears Crawford to discuss your options.
On a more serious note than overbilling, fraud occurs in legal malpractice claims when an attorney deceives a client for financial gain. If your former attorney misrepresented a situation or failed to disclose facts that persuaded you, the client, to make certain decisions that have led you to suffer damages, including financial loss, you may have grounds for a legal malpractice suit. Speak to a legal malpractice attorney to see if you indeed have a case.