Hiring an attorney is a serious investment that entitles you to certain levels of treatment and protection. Attorneys must handle you, their client, with care and ethical behavior. Sometimes, however, some attorneys act in ways that go against their code of ethics. In doing so, they open the door to a serious subject known as legal malpractice.
What Are Your Rights?
When you hire an attorney, you have rights as a client. You can expect your attorney to maintain a consistent level of professional behavior, a high amount of expertise in his/her field, and ethical treatment for you as his/her client.
The Florida Bar mandates that all attorneys practicing in the state engage in certain practices:
Your attorney must communicate clearly and promptly with you on all case matters. He/she must have the sufficient amount of information required to explain all situations to you effectively.
Your attorney must protect your confidentiality. While specific issues (such as prevention of crime or bodily harm) require a lawyer to share information, you can reasonably expect your lawyer to safeguard your information at all other times.
Your attorney cannot maintain any conflicts of interest regarding you or your case. Such examples include conflicts related to other clients, parties involved in your case, etc.
Your attorney must always stand by you and your case and vehemently protect your rights as a citizen.
Your attorney must ultimately seek justice for you as his/her client. As a client, you are paying for an attorney’s services, and in return, you are obligated to be treated professionally and ethically at all times.
What Happens When Those Rights Are Breached?
While these practices require attorneys to maintain professional behaviors, improper care regarding these practices can often lead to serious damage for a client and his/her case. Such negligence is known as legal malpractice.
Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to meet ethical standards and breaches his/her legal duties to protect his/her client. What does legal malpractice look like? Some examples include:
You are trying to communicate with your attorney about your case matters. However, your attorney fails to return your calls and proceeds on a settlement without your knowledge or approval.
You could be seeking damages from someone in an accident case. Because the state of Florida has statutes of limitations, you only have a certain amount of time to file your lawsuit before you can no longer seek any damage compensation. Your attorney does not meet that deadline, and your suit is not filed in time, meaning you are missing out on potential recompense for your injuries.
You hire an attorney that does not have the proper experience required to handle your case. As a result of this inexperience, you lose your case when you had a serious argument and evidence to the contrary.
As a result of legal malpractice, you could begin to feel that you were robbed because of negligence. The judicial system that you believed would work in your favor is no longer as trustworthy as you thought it was because of your attorney’s lack of care over your case.
What Options Do I Have?
Legal malpractice can be devastating and cause serious harm to both you and your case. Fortunately, if such malpractice occurs, you have options available to you.
Can I File a Complaint?
If you believe you are the victim of legal malpractice, one of your options is to file an official complaint with the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar investigates each complaint to the fullest extent. It will review the complaint’s details to determine if the attorney you hired can and should be punished for his/her negligence regarding your case. Such punishments can include suspension of practice, revocation of license to practice (with the opportunity to reapply), restitution of damages, and, in some cases, revocation of license without the future opportunity to reapply.
Can I Sue My Attorney for Negligence?
If you believe you are the victim of legal malpractice, you can sue your negligent attorney and, under the Florida statute of limitations, you have up to two years to file suit. You must have adequate proof of the alleged negligence, meaning you must be able to show that you had a contract or relationship with your former attorney, prove that your agreement was breached by not meeting his/her duties, and prove you suffered financial losses due to the negligence.
Protecting your rights and obtaining legal counsel as quickly as possible is essential if you believe you are the victim of legal malpractice. Call the Tampa legal malpractice attorney at Four Rivers Law Firm to connect with an experienced team ready to handle your legal malpractice case with care and professionalism.