Michigan Legal Malpractice Attorneys
Suing for Legal Malpractice in Michigan
Most of the time when we think of malpractice, we picture doctors and hospitals, but malpractice is a broader term that applies to negligence by several other state-licensed professional.
Attorneys are licensed professionals who can also be sued for malpractice. As a consequence, they are liable for their mistakes when it is shown that they have committed malpractice. All legal malpractice cases have a common set of features that must be present for a lawyer to be liable for malpractice. These elements include:
- Being in an attorney-client relationship with the plaintiff at the time that the malpractice is committed.
- Violating a standard of care or practice that attorneys of ordinary skill in learning would know about and take care not to violate.
- Causing the client damage as a consequence of the violation.
Mistakes that Prompt Legal Malpractice Claims
The specific kinds of mistakes that lawyers can make are too numerous to list, but they generally fall into three areas:
Failure To Complete Tasks Within Legal Time Limits
One of the most common time problems that litigation lawyers run into are statutes of limitation. These are legal time limits on the filing of various kinds of cases. What makes this complicated is that there are many different statutes of limitations and many exceptions to the general rules. Here are some examples from Michigan law.
Fraud is considered a legal tort and has a three-year statute of limitations, unless it is in connection with a contract, in which case the statute may be six years. Minors have until their 19th birthday to sue – most of the time (in cases of medical malpractice, they have the same time that adults have, or until their 10th birthday, whichever would give them more time).
Certain kinds of cases, principally cases against governmental agencies, have strict requirements for giving notice of a potential claim quite soon after the injury. For example, a tort claim against the state of Michigan requires notice within 120 days, but a contract claim against the state allows a year. Claims against cities for defective sidewalks require that notice be given within 120 days. Medical claims must almost always be preceded by a detailed notice following a strict form, which must be given at least six months before the filing of a claim in court.
When a lawyer misses an important deadline, the case is usually lost in its entirety. Although it is fairly easy to prove that the lawyer violated a standard of practice by missing a deadline, it is more difficult to prove how – and how much – the client was damaged. If a claim is brought against the lawyer on the basis that they missed the statute of limitations, the case will be defended on the basis that it is hard to know whether the case would have been successful or not. Even if it is likely that the plaintiff would have won the case, who can say how much money would have been awarded?
The plaintiff in a legal malpractice case for missing the statute of limitations is required to prove two cases:
- The lawyer was negligent in missing the statute.
- How successful the case would have been had it been brought properly.
Imagine a lawyer who misses the statute of limitations on a complicated medical malpractice case. The client will have to prove all of the things that he/she would have had to prove against the doctor and hospital in the first place, and then convince the jury in the legal malpractice case of how much money a jury in the medical malpractice case would have been inclined to award.
One thing that you can do to protect yourself from a missed statute of limitations is to make the lawyer explain to you at the beginning of your case what he or she thinks the statute of limitations date is and why. Mark that date on your calendar. Make sure that as that date approaches, you’re in contact with your lawyer and that the lawyer is planning to file on time.