CALIFORNIA LEGAL MALPRACTICE BASICS
I. What is Legal Malpractice?
Legal malpractice is a type of civil law suit used to enforce the standards of professional conduct. When you initiate a lawsuit for California legal malpractice, you’re not only asking the court to compensate you for your damages; you’re also asking it to define and clarify the standard of care that applies to future lawyers. To better understand California legal malpractice lawsuits, it’s important to know the elements of the claim.
II. Elements of a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit in California
Legal malpractice claims are founded on the theory of negligence. For this reason, legal malpractice is also called professional negligence. To establish a cause of action for legal malpractice, you must prove the following elements: 1) that the attorney owed you a duty; 2) that the attorney breached that duty; and 3) that the attorney’s breach of duty resulted in actual damages.
The existence of a duty is a straightforward analysis, and it’s usually easy to prove. Thus, the heart of legal malpractice claims is whether your attorney breached their duty, i.e., your attorney failed to use an ordinary degree of care, skill, or knowledge expected from other attorneys under similar circumstances.
Once it can be shown that your attorney breached their duty of care owed to you, the next step is to show that the breach resulted in actual damages. Proving damages requires that you were injured by the outcome of the original case because of your lawyer’s omissions or misconduct. This is called the “case within the case” factor. Damages resulting from malpractice can be difficult to prove, and your original case must essentially be retried during your malpractice suit to determine whether the outcome would have been different.
Another important element of legal malpractice claims is the statute of limitations.
III. California Legal Malpractice Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time you have to file a claim for legal malpractice against your attorney. While the exact amount of time varies depending on the facts of your case, the general rule is that the you must bring an action against the attorney within one year after discovering (or after you should have reasonably discovered) that the wrongful act or omission has occurred, or four years from the date of the malpractice; whichever occurs first. The statute of limitations may be longer in certain circumstances, and it’s important to have a qualified legal malpractice lawyer review your case to determine whether you still have time to initiate a malpractice lawsuit against your attorney.
If you believe you’ve been injured by your lawyer’s professional negligence, we are here for you. We understand this can be a difficult time in your life and that you feel wronged. We will review the facts of your case, explain your rights, and advise you about how to proceed. Contact us today to discuss your case.
PLEASE BE ADVISED: Views expressed are not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.