Statutes of Limitations Against Lawyers and Law Firms
The statute of limitations against a lawyer or law firm is generally two years from the last date that the lawyer or law firm rendered services out of which the malpractice claim arises. If the two-year time period has passed, but the client had no way of knowing that the lawyer made a mistake, the time limit may be extended to six months after the client knew, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence, could have known of a possible claim.
Sometimes, the client discovers the mistake, but the two-year time period from the last representation is already passed or is about to pass. The client goes back to the lawyer who then tries to fix the problem. The question is whether the two-year limitation on bringing suit against the lawyer runs from the original representation during which the mistake was made or from the time that the lawyer gave up trying to fix it. The answer is that the law ordinarily will not allow the two-year period to be extended just because the lawyer tried to fix his earlier mistake. The services that ultimately gave rise to the malpractice were completed, and all the lawyer was doing afterward was trying to undo the mistake. If the claim was not brought in the original two-year period, it is probably going to be lost.
You May Have Been a Legal Malpractice Victim
It is exceedingly difficult for a client to assess their own legal malpractice claim. It may seem easier than determining whether a doctor has committed medical malpractice, but in most cases, there are complexities that the client may never consider. The client may think that the lawyer will admit their mistake and try to make it right without the necessity of a claim. There are two reasons why this is a dangerous assumption. First, when any professional is accused of malpractice, it raises personal issues that cloud otherwise good judgment, making it difficult for the lawyer to assess and admit their own mistake and put a fair value on what it would take to fix it. More importantly, most malpractice insurance policies state that if the lawyer does not turn the claim over to his insurance company immediately and without doing anything that would weaken the defense of the claim the insurance coverage will be voided. Thus, if the lawyer is smart, he will refuse to negotiate or even discuss the claim with the client, unless it is a very small one. He will simply turn the matter over to his insurance company who will naturally attempt to get out for as small a payment as possible.
One thing the client should be on the lookout for is any attempt by a lawyer to get a client to waive in advance potential legal malpractice claims. The ethics rules governing lawyers do not permit this, and a court will not enforce a waiver or release in advance. Moreover, a lawyer cannot ethically advise a client to waive or release a claim against the lawyer after a potential malpractice claim has arisen. They can only ethically advise the client to obtain independent representation.
If you think you may have been the victim of legal malpractice, the best advice is to seek legal counsel from a legal malpractice attorney at Seikaly, Stewart & Bennett, who will know how to successfully pursue the case. Because of time limitations, it pays to move very swiftly once you begin to suspect malpractice may have been committed. Call 866-671-8115 or fill out our contact form now to schedule your no-obligation consultation.