What If I Need to Sue My Personal Injury Lawyer?
Personal Injury lawyers are, as a rule, well-educated, highly trained, and professional. There are various screening mechanisms in place that catch most of the bad apples before they start practicing law. Even so, a few get through, and, more commonly, otherwise capable lawyers sometimes make a really careless mistake. Just like medical malpractice for doctors’ errors, there is a civil tort action for legal malpractice in these situations. If you are planning to file a claim for legal malpractice against your former attorney, it’s natural to be wary about trusting another, but the truth is that the best choice for helping you get what you deserve from a bad Personal Injury lawyer is a good one.
The law of legal malpractice more or less mirrors the law of medical malpractice, and there are three main questions to answer when you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit against a Personal Injury lawyer. First, did the lawyer make the kind of mistake that I can be compensated for? Not all errors are malpractice, so this can sometimes be a disputed question. Next, did the lawyer’s mistake cause me harm that the law recognizes? The answer to this question tends to be obvious in simple cases but gets increasingly unclear as the complexity of the case increases. Finally, did I file the suit in time? While this would seem like the question where there is the least to argue about, Arizona’s law on this issue is so muddy that it is often the most contentious of the three.
The first issue (sometimes called “standard of care”) is often where getting help from a Personal Injury lawyer in particular can be of the most help. The law defines legal malpractice as “failure of an attorney to use such skill, prudence, and diligence as lawyers of ordinary skill and capacity commonly possess and exercise in performance of tasks which they undertake.” This means that if your lawyer either made a mistake about the law or an error in judgment that an average lawyer would not have made, or just didn’t work as hard as a typical lawyer would, you may have a case of legal malpractice. In order to prove that what your lawyer did was below this standard, you will need an expert in the kind of case you took to your former lawyer, such as an experienced Personal Injury lawyer. While your lawyer won’t be able to testify in your case, they will have a better idea where to find another expert who will than a general practioner would.
As to causation, the law requires that your harm be definite and current, which means it typically won’t exist until the case you brought to your former attorney ends. In the typical personal injury case, the “harm” is that you got less compensation than you would have if your former attorney hadn’t made the mistake they did. This also means that you need to prove that your situation would have been better but as a direct result of the attorney’s error, you were damaged. A Personal Injury lawyer can explain how this applies to your particular case.
Finally, it’s important to seek help from a Personal Injury lawyer quickly. Under the law, you have a maximum of 2 years to file a lawsuit for legal malpractice, as measured from the time that you know or should know that you have been harmed by the attorney’s mistake and your harm becomes definite. This can get confusing because, legally speaking, your harm does not exist until the end of your case, which inclides an appeal if you pursue one. Crucially, it does not matter when you learn that you got less than you deserved because of your former attorney’s mistake, the two year period begins running as soon as the case becomes closed.
It’s difficult enough to be hurt and in need of compensation, but when the person you trust to help you get justice ruins your chance to get it, it’s especially tragic. In these situations, your best hope is often a legal malpractice lawsuit. It is very helpful to have the guidance of a Personal Injury lawyer with extensive experience in Arizona legal malpractice law to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. To speak with a professional attorney who specializes in legal malpractice, call Zachar Law Firm at (602) 494-4800 or visit www.zacharassociates.com.