A malpractice lawsuit occurs when a professional makes a serious error in the services they provide, and a patient or client suffers financial or physical harm as a result.

Legal malpractice claims or lawsuits are generally filed against licensed professionals such as lawyers, health care providers (doctors, nurses, dentists, and chiropractors), and their employers. A malpractice claim must demonstrate that the action that caused the error fell below a certain “normal” level of care and that it resulted in your injury.

Attorney Guidelines

Choosing the right lawyer to represent you is crucial to the outcome of your case. Each lawyer must adhere to certain professional standards.

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Attorney Malpractice

A lawyer commits legal malpractice when they are negligent in handling a client’s case. There are times when mistakes made by lawyers can be corrected, but sometimes the errors can seriously harm the client’s case.

In some cases, an attorney can make a person’s situation worse rather than better. A lawyer hired to represent an individual must provide competent and professional services.

A lawyer may be liable for damages if they fail to provide competent and professional services, and their client suffers damages as a result. Clients may consider suing an attorney for malpractice if they make a serious mistake.

A lawyer who engages in attorney malpractice fails to use the same level of skill and care that other attorneys would use to handle a similar case, problem, or circumstance.

What Are Some Common Types of Attorney Malpractice?

There are three main types of attorney malpractice, including:

  • Negligence;
  • Breach of fiduciary duty; and
  • Breach of contract.

If an attorney fails to handle a client’s case as a competent attorney should, the attorney was most likely negligent in handling the case. If the attorney commits malpractice, they can be held liable for the damages that result.

Attorneys who act in their own best interest instead of their client’s best interest and adversely affect their client’s case are probably guilty of malpractice for breaching their fiduciary duty. A client can sue their attorney for damages.

When a person hires an attorney, they sign a contract with that attorney. If the attorney fails to perform as specified in the agreement, that attorney has committed malpractice, and the client may be entitled to recover damages.

What Are Some Examples of Attorney Malpractice?

An attorney may commit malpractice in many ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Blunders: If an attorney makes outrageous mistakes, such as missing court dates or deadlines, fails to submit documents to the court properly, or otherwise behaves irresponsible, the attorney may have committed malpractice;
  • Bad checks: If an attorney sends a check from their own account for damages the client has won and that check bounces, the attorney may have committed malpractice;
  • Settling without their client’s permission: If an attorney settles a case without their client’s permission, the attorney may be liable for malpractice; and
  • Failing to contact the client: If the attorney has not returned a client’s phone calls or responded to their letters for a long period of time, the attorney may have committed malpractice.

A common example of attorney malpractice is when an attorney quits working on a case. Thus, the client’s case may be dismissed, or a default judgment may be entered against them.

Some circumstances may seem questionable, but they do not constitute malpractice. An example is when an attorney recommends their client settle for much less than they initially expected the case to be worth. An attorney can inflate a case’s perceived value to get a client to hire them.

Additionally, it is not malpractice for an attorney to socialize with an attorney on the opposing side. However, an issue may arise if the attorney divulges confidential information regarding the case, breaching their duty to their client.

How Do I Prove Attorney Malpractice?

An individual must prove all elements of legal malpractice to prove attorney malpractice. These elements are:

  • The attorney’s duty;
  • A breach of the duty;
  • The breach caused the plaintiff damages; and
  • Damages the client suffered.

An attorney malpractice lawsuit must first prove that the plaintiff was owed a duty by their attorney. When an attorney takes a client’s case, they owe them a duty to handle the matter completely.

The plaintiff must also prove that their attorney breached their duty to them. A breach can take many forms, including:

  • Negligence;
  • Mistake; and
  • Not performing as agreed.

Causation is the third element the plaintiff must prove. Most likely, this will be the hardest element to prove. That is because the plaintiff must first prove that the attorney committed malpractice.

It is then up to the plaintiff to prove that they would have won their underlying case but for the way the attorney handled it. The plaintiff must also prove that they would have collected damages if they had won their case. The plaintiff may need to prove that the individual they sued had insurance or assets to pay the damages.

The plaintiff must also prove that they have suffered damages. This must be in the form of a financial loss. Most of the time, the damages amount will be what the individual would have won if attorney malpractice had not occurred.

It is important to note that these elements vary from state to state. In Ohio, for example, the plaintiff is not required to prove that they would have won their original case if the attorney had handled it properly.

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Medical Malpractice

Often, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or medical professional fails to perform their duty competently. Whether a medical professional can be held responsible for a patient’s injuries will depend on the facts of the case and the rules and requirements of the medical malpractice laws enacted in the state of the injury. Some jurisdictions within the same state can have different standards and regulations for medical malpractice.

Therefore, if you believe that you have been injured due to medical malpractice, you should consult a personal injury lawyer to learn more about the applicable laws in your area.

What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice Claims?

Examples of medical malpractice claims include:

  • Improperly diagnosing or failing to diagnose a patient;
  • Providing the wrong treatment or medication;
  • Operating on the wrong body party (e.g., amputating their left leg instead of right leg);
  • Not following up with a patient after a serious procedure;
  • Prematurely discharging a patient before they have recovered well enough;

How Is Medical Malpractice Proven in a Lawsuit?

Before medical malpractice can be established, several elements must be met. A plaintiff must be able to demonstrate the following elements to prove medical malpractice liability:

  • The medical professional owed the patient a duty to act reasonably and under the medical standard of care in overseeing the patient’s health (e.g., diagnosing, treating, etc.).
  • The medical professional failed to meet the proper standard of care (i.e., their duty) because they were negligent in managing some aspects of the patient’s health. In other words, they breached the duty of care they had to that patient.
  • The medical professional’s negligent conduct was the actual and proximate cause of the patient’s injury.
  • The injury resulted in the patient suffering measurable damages.

Additionally, if a lawsuit is specifically filed against an organization or its staff, it must be shown that the medical staff was negligently trained or supervised.

A plaintiff might be able to submit medical records, receipts for medical expenses, documents that caused a misdiagnosis or mistreatment, and costs associated with an injury (e.g., hospital bills to rectify a surgeon’s mistake, etc.) as evidence to support their claim.

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Other Malpractice

Malpractice claims can arise in a wide variety of situations involving professional duties.

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Seeking Legal Help

If you have been injured due to malpractice, you should contact a products and services attorney for help. Your attorney will evaluate your situation and help you develop a case to receive compensation for your losses or injuries.