Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer handles a case negligently, or with intent to harm a client, and that action results in damages. It is important to note though that not every mistake an attorney makes is considered legal malpractice. However, when a lawyer takes a case, but allows the time within which the case can be filed to lapse, this often amounts to actionable malpractice; although there are other elements necessary to proving a malpractice claim in court. The Princeton legal malpractice lawyers at the Law Offices of Thaddeus P. Mikulski Jr have extensive experience investigating and building legal malpractice cases.
Broadly speaking, a statute of limitations is the period of time within which a person has to file a lawsuit after the incident giving rise to the lawsuit occurred. Once this period has passed, a person can no longer file the lawsuit, and thus, they cannot recover damages.
In general, the statute of limitations will begin when a person knew or had reason to know that they suffered an injury. Although the concept may seem simple, sometimes there is divergent case law as to when the statute of limitations begins to run in a case. Common examples of cases that can be barred because the statute of limitations has passed are:
The rationale behind having statute of limitations laws is to facilitate the resolution of claims within a reasonable period.
When a lawyer allows the statute of limitations to expire, it is often obvious that the lawyer was negligent. However, there are other elements necessary to proving legal malpractice.
In most states, to prevail in a legal malpractice lawsuit, a litigant must prove each of the following four elements:
To establish an attorney-client relationship, one must demonstrate that a lawyer promised to give legal advice or assistance. Although this is typically created by a written contract, it can be implied from an attorney’s actions. In some states, it is enough that a client has a reasonable belief that there is an attorney-client relationship.
To establish negligence, one must show that an attorney failed to exercise the care, skill, and diligence commonly exercised by other attorneys under similar conditions and circumstances. When an attorney elects to use a specific legal strategy, and it turns out not to be the best possible one they could have used, this is usually not actionable negligence. When a lawyer disregards the statute of limitations, however, negligence is generally easy to prove.
To prove the third and fourth elements, a client must show that had the attorney had not been negligent, the case would have prevailed.
In short, lawyers have a duty to know and follow the applicable statutes of limitations. When attorneys fail to follow this rule of professional conduct, and the outcome of the case is compromised, they should be held accountable for their negligence.
If you are the victim of a failure by your attorney to meet deadlines, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us to learn more about how the Princeton legal malpractice lawyers at the Law Offices of Thaddeus P. Mikulski Jr can help you. We pride ourselves on responsiveness to our clients. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 609-303-0222 or contact us online.