My Attorney Screwed Up My NYC Personal Injury Case…What Are My Rights?Click For Your Free Consulation
If your attorney screwed up your NYC personal injury case, you might be the victim of legal malpractice. If your attorney’s malpractice costs you money, you are entitled to full compensation.
You can file a lawsuit or seek a private settlement with your attorney. You can also report the attorney to the New York State Bar Association for professional discipline.
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Just as you can sue a doctor for medical malpractice, you can sue a lawyer for legal malpractice. Remember that no attorney can legitimately guarantee a favorable outcome in your case, any more than your doctor can guarantee that your surgery will be successful.
Consequently, to win a legal malpractice claim, it is not enough to show that you lost your case. After all, nearly every case has a winner and a loser.
Instead, you must show that your lawyer failed to meet the professional standard of care with respect to your case. Accordingly, not every error a lawyer makes amounts to legal malpractice—it must be serious enough to constitute professional negligence.
The standard is inherently ambiguous because few ironclad rules can tell you what does and does not add up to legal malpractice. Some professional standards do apply, however.
You must prove the following elements to win a legal malpractice claim:
That means an attorney-client relationship must exist. You can prove this by producing the contingency fee agreement that you entered into with the attorney. Typically, an initial consultation will not establish a duty of care if you do not proceed to hire the lawyer.
What did the lawyer do wrong? To establish that your lawyer’s wrongdoing amounts to legal malpractice, you might need an expert witness to testify on your behalf.
The witness will testify to what a “reasonable attorney” would have done under the circumstances your lawyer faced when they breached their duty of care to you. The witness will probably need to be an attorney in the same field or a legal scholar (a law professor, for example).
The losses you will complain of regarding a personal injury case will almost certainly be financial. To prove this claim, you must have lost your case or won a smaller amount than you should have; otherwise, no harm was done.
You must also prove causation—that the outcome of your case would have been more favorable to you but for your lawyer’s misconduct. Proving a hypothetical like this is a challenging task.
You must prove each of these four elements on a “preponderance of the evidence” basis. A preponderance of the evidence means evidence that establishes a greater than 50% likelihood that your claim is true.
Following are some examples of attorney behavior that likely amounts to legal malpractice:
Other actions may rise to the level of attorney misconduct. It’s best to consult a lawyer regarding the alleged malpractice to see if you have a valid claim.
It is easy to mistake offensive behavior or an unfavorable outcome for attorney malpractice. It is even easier to mistake an ordinary error by your attorney for malpractice.
Following are some circumstances that probably do not amount to legal malpractice:
Many situations constitute “gray areas,” meaning a legal malpractice claim could go either way. Schedule a consultation with a lawyer if you’re unsure of your chances.
If you suffered no tangible harm from your lawyer’s misconduct, you might be unable to win a legal malpractice case. Even if this is so, you can still find justice by reporting your lawyer to the New York State Bar Association. The Bar Association will investigate, and they might impose sanctions on your lawyer up to and including permanent disbarment.
This approach won’t win you any money unless your lawyer stole from you or caused other losses, but it might provide you with a sense of closure.
Legal malpractice cases are tough to win regardless of who is representing you. They are virtually impossible to win if you represent yourself. Find an attorney with experience winning legal malpractice claims, and schedule a consultation with them. Be persistent—you might find it difficult to find an attorney willing to file a claim against a member of their own profession.
Contact or call Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers, to get legal assistance in Manhattan at (212) 564 2800.
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