FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-03-01
Lawyers have an ethical responsibility to their clients, the legal system and to the public to behave ethically and operate professionally and competently. If an attorney fails to behave ethically or perform up to a certain standard, he or she may be subject to a legal malpractice claim.
A client who brings a successful malpractice claim can recover attorneys’ fees (both for the attorney accused of malpractice and the attorney bringing the claim) and the costs lost to the client because of the malpractice that occurred.
State Laws Vary Widely
In some cases, however, it can be difficult to recover on a legal malpractice claim. Some states do not require attorneys to have legal malpractice insurance or notify their clients if they are uninsured. This is because only one state — Oregon — requires its attorneys to carry malpractice insurance. Many do not even require attorneys to disclose malpractice insurance information to their clients. Ohio and two other states do require attorneys to provide written disclosure to their clients if they are not insured against malpractice claims, and to keep that signed document for several years. Twenty-six states also have formal insurance disclosure requirements.
Still, a 2011 study by HALT, a nonprofit group for legal reform, noted that 17 states do not require attorneys to carry malpractice insurance or to notify their clients if they are uninsured.
A Utah woman recently discovered her state’s rules regarding malpractice insurance in an unfortunate way. She claims that during her divorce case, her attorney never prepared with her and did not speak to her or return her emails or phone calls for seven months, KSL TV reported. She lost her house in the divorce and is worried about homelessness. She wants to bring a legal malpractice claim for case mismanagement, but no other attorney wants to take the case until it is shown her former attorney has malpractice insurance. Since no law in Utah forces an attorney to disclose this information, the information is difficult to obtain.
Help for People Affected by Legal Malpractice
The vast majority of attorneys are ethical and competent. However, attorneys are human and make mistakes, and a few do behave unethically. If you believe your attorney committed malpractice, contact an experienced legal malpractice attorney to bring a claim. A client who brings a successful malpractice claim can recover damages for any losses caused by the attorney, and may be able to claim any attorney fees that had to incur to rectify the harm caused by the attorney.