If My Attorney Screwed Up My Case, What Are My Rights?

February 17, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
If My Attorney Screwed Up My Case, What Are My Rights?

When legal representation goes wrong, injured accident victims may not know what to do or where to turn for help. As a legal client, you have rights and your attorney owes you a duty of care. If you believe that your attorney is not doing his or her job or if you have issues with your lawyer, you need to speak to our law firm immediately.

While relying on attorneys to handle litigation, settlements, and lawsuits is normally beneficial for the public, there are times when these individuals fall short of their expected skills. You turn to a lawyer and trust that he or she will help. However, what are your rights when the attorney screws up the case?

If you have lost confidence in your attorney and are considering suing for legal malpractice, there are many things for you to know. The first thing is that not all attorneys are the same. The personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you understand your rights after you have been misrepresented by another attorney. We can help you move forward if your lawyer is taking too long or if you need to fire your existing attorney.

It is very hard to win a legal malpractice case because of the amount of evidence you need to prove that the lawyer failed to use the ordinary skill and care that would be used by other lawyers in handling a similar problem or case under similar conditions. As such, it is important to know that four basic things needed to win a malpractice case against your attorney:

  • Duty- the attorney owed you their duty to act properly like a licensed professional
  • Breach- the attorney breached their duty towards you by being negligent, made a mistake, or did not do what they were contracted to do
  • Causation- this behavior by the attorney caused you damages, and
  • Damages- the costs suffered resulted in a financial loss to you.

These basic causes of legal malpractice are all due to problems associated with troubled attorney-client relationships. They are normally set off by a lack of communication, dishonestly and incompetence, inadequate legal work, arbitration, and billings. In order to be more specific, the American Bar Association (ABA) posted an article that was taken from an issue of Law Practice magazine that shows the most common legal malpractice claims by type of alleged error for selected claims from both the United States and Canada.

Common Issues People Sue Their Attorneys For

Out of the 24 legal claims, all of the aforementioned problems are listed as common problems. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to know how to apply the law
  • Strategy in planning error
  • Inadequate discovery or investigation into the matter
  • Failure to file documents
  • Procrastination
  • Failure to obtain client consent
  • Fraud

If you feel as though your attorney-client privilege has been violated by any means mentioned, you may be able to sue your lawyer for malpractice.

When filing a lawsuit against your attorney, it is important to seek legal representation immediately. You will need considerable proof of legal malpractice and your attorney can help you gather the necessary proof and build a strong case. Ensuring that you have the necessary evidence is critical when determining if you have a case or not.

Most states have a statute of limitations when filing legal malpractice claims. It is important to keep an eye on these deadlines. If you miss this deadline, you may not be able to file a claim to collect the compensation you deserve. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, our legal malpractice lawyers will help you avoid missing critical deadlines. We know the ins and outs of filing malpractice lawsuits and we will fight for your rights every step of the way.

What Are Your Rights as a Lawyer's Client?

Some basic rights that you are entitled to include proper and effective communication/correspondence between a client and his or her attorney, the competency of the attorney to know the core knowledge and expertise of a client's legal issue, the work was completed ethically and the agreement of fees is followed. As a summary, you can and should expect your lawyer to do the following:

  • Give you guidance regarding your legal circumstance
  • Keep you up to date about your case
  • Tell you what he or she thinks will transpire in your case
  • Allow you to make vital judgments concerning your case
  • Give you an assessment about what your case ought to cost
  • Help you in any cost-benefit evaluation that you may need
  • Keep in communication with you
  • Inform you of any changes, delays, or setbacks
  • Give you the information you need to make educated decisions
  • Prepare you for your case, including disposition and trial preparation

Common Questions About Lawyer Malpractice Lawsuits

Even with all of that in mind, here are some answers to common questions clients may have regarding their lawyers.

If I've lost confidence in my lawyer, can I sue them for negligence?

The ability to fire a lawyer is up to the client at any time or point. However, unless this lawyer is truly terrible and violates your rights or commits malpractice as described before, it is often not the best choice to go after a lawyer, unless you have another attorney who has expressed interest in the case.

If I fired my lawyer but I need my information back, can I get it?

It is essential to ask or to sign an authorization allowing any new attorney to get your documents for the impending case. While there may be a fee dispute with your former lawyer, or you have yet to pay them, you are entitled to have your information.

Is my lawyer supposed to keep my info and our communications confidential?

Yes, your personal injury lawyer has an obligation to keep their client's information private and confidential unless the client gives them permission to disclose the information in question. Communications between you and your attorney are supposed to be confidential as well and not revealed without the client's permission.

In many personal injury cases, there is a lot of sensitive information that clients may have to share with their attorney so that they can do their job and as a result, lawyers have a professional duty to their clients to keep this information confidential. In almost every case except a few rare exceptions, this assumed confidentiality is expected to be applied regardless of whether or not a client requests the information to remain confidential.

If your lawyer has disclosed your private information to a third party without your consent then that may be grounds for taking legal action against what will likely be considered legal malpractice.

If my lawyer isn't returning my phone calls, is this malpractice?

While it could fall into a communication error, returning phone calls effectively is not a plausible reason to file a malpractice claim. However, this could be a sign of looming trouble. To figure out why your lawyer may not be returning your calls, try and deal with the situation by writing them a letter or email or even faxing their office explaining your issues with the current—or lack thereof--communication and asking for a phone call or a meeting to restore your relationship.
He or she may be busy researching your case, dealing with a sickness, or having family issues. In any case, if this outreach doesn't work and you find out that it is for other reasons such as procrastination or bluntly being rude, you may consider firing the lawyer or filing a formal complaint with Florida's Bar Association.

If my lawyer is taking too long and appears to have stopped working on my case, is this malpractice?

The longer your lawyer doesn't communicate with you about your case, the more likely it is to eventually amount to malpractice. Just as the last question suggested, you must seek to reach your attorney as quickly as possible through letters, emails, or fax to make sure that it is properly handled. If not, the ignorance on their part will allow you to fire that lawyer and hire a new attorney early on while the case can still be saved.

If my case with thrown off the docket, is this grounds to sue my lawyer if they completed no work?

This is a possibility. Your attorney is responsible for whatever monetary damages you are owed, had you won the case by an attentive attorney. The difficulty in winning a case of malpractice in this claim is that you not only have to prove that your lawyer handled the case ineffectively, but also if you were to have had another attorney who handled it correctly, you could have won and collected compensation.

If the monetary sum I was granted is lower than what my attorney said I could get, can I sue the lawyer for the difference?

While it may be upsetting to not get the compensation you thought you deserved based on your attorney's comments, you cannot file a malpractice claim against this fallacy. You can, however, get your file from the lawyer and get a second opinion on your case. If another lawyer believes that you are being advised to settle for far less than what you are owed, consider changing lawyers before settling.

Yes, you can. However, you would have to prove that your lawyer did so without your authorization because the settlement was far less than what you were truly owed and didn't effectively represent your case or that the lack of communication was systematic.

If my attorney sent me a large and unforeseeable bill, what can I do?

If you believe the bill that you've received is outside of the context of your agreement, don't pay it. Ask your lawyer about why the bill is the amount it is and—if you disagree, ask for a reduction. If the lawyer refuses to do so, consider filing for a non-binding fee arbitration with a state or local bar association. Arbitration allows an outside party to become the neutral decision-maker when regarding bills and finances. It can be binding or non-binding which allows you to reject the arbitrator's assessment. Find out more from our local association.

There are many more questions clients may have regarding their rights when getting assistance from an attorney. These are just a few that can help make things more clear. If you have any more questions, you may contact our offices to inquire about your legal rights.

Seek an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today

We understand at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, the trust that clients bestow upon our experienced professionals. That is why we make a commitment to ensure personal service and accessibility.

All claims are handled by one of our lawyers that are experts in their fields. You will never have to deal with inexperienced paralegals, case managers, or have to worry about untrained interns making management decisions about your case. If you have any personal injury claim, including a legal malpractice claim, we are here for you.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal advice, regarding their case in the Clearwater/St.Peterburg/Tampa Bay area, contact one of your Clearwater personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. Our number is (727) 451-6900.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA which has a combined 90 plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last fifteen (15) years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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