Understanding Legal Malpractice in California

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When you choose to work with an attorney, you should do so because you trust that attorney to handle your case properly, legally, and ethically. However, there are times when attorneys do not work in the best interest of their clients. When that happens, most people are confused about what their options are. Do they go to another attorney to get help dealing with the troublesome attorney? Should they even trust another attorney?

These questions can seem overwhelming, but there are skilled Long Beach legal malpractice lawyers who work to hold negligent or careless legal professionals accountable for the harm they cause to their clients.

Understanding the basics of legal malpractice

It is important to understand what legal malpractice is not. A legal malpractice case cannot arise just because an attorney loses a case. Good attorneys lose cases all the time. That is the nature of our system of justice. Someone wins, and someone loses in every case. No lawyer can promise a guaranteed win on a case (if they did, that could actually constitute malpractice).

You should know that each state has rules of professional conduct that all attorneys must abide by. Legal malpractice does exist when an attorney fails to provide the services they are required to provide with the diligence, prudence, and skill that a reasonable attorney would use in a similar situation. That standard applies to all non-medical professionals as detailed in the California Civil Jury Instruction 600.

What is needed to prove that legal malpractice took place in California?

In order to prove that legal malpractice has occurred, there are certain elements that the plaintiff (or their attorney) must show. This includes:

  • That there was an attorney-client relationship between the parties
  • That the attorney was negligent in the legal representation they provided
  • That the negligence caused the client harm
  • The extent of the harm caused to the plaintiff

Examples of legal malpractice

Some of the most common ways that legal malpractice arise include:

  • An attorney fails to inform a client about information pertinent to their case.
  • Errors in legal documents that should not be made by a competent legal professional.
  • The attorney handling the case has a conflict of interest.
  • A client’s finances are misused by an attorney.
  • An attorney overcharging the client.
  • A client’s consent is not gained before making agreements related to the case.
  • Deadlines are not met, including filing deadlines and statute of limitations issues.

What kind of compensation could be available in a legal malpractice case?

There are various types of damages that could be recovered by a victim in a legal malpractice case. This includes:

  • Compensatory damages for payment agreed in the original contract
  • Restitution for payments or deposits
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Punitive damages if the actions were negligent or intentional
  • Court costs and legal fees of the plaintiff

Can an attorney be trusted to help against another attorney?

While the vast majority of attorneys perform their jobs ethically and morally, that is not always the case. A legal malpractice attorney will have no qualms against vigorously pursuing another attorney for legal malpractice. Negligent and careless attorneys tarnish the name and reputation of the entire field of law, and their behavior cannot be tolerated. Yes, you can trust another qualified and experienced attorney to help you with your legal malpractice case.