How to Know When Your Lawyer Has Committed Legal Malpractice in Your Case.

deadline.jpgWe have brought many New York legal malpractice lawsuits against other New York personal injury lawyers. In fact, we are one of the few firms in our area willing to sue other lawyers for malpractice. Our experience has taught us a few things. One thing we have learned is how a client can suspect that his lawyer has committed legal malpractice in his personal injury or medical malpractice case even when the lawyer won’t tell the client. How? Read on.

Phone rings. Secretary tells me a potential client is on the phone with a personal injury case and he wants to “switch lawyers”. I take the call. The potential client says, “my lawyer at first told me that I had a great personal injury case, that I had a lot of money coming to me, but now all of a sudden he tells me the case is not worth pursuing. He is trying to talk me into dropping the case. But I don’t want to drop it. Can you represent me?”

Wooo! When I hear this, red flashing lights go off in my head. The first question I ask is, “WHEN did your accident happen?” If the answer is, “just over three years ago”, I say to myself, “bingo”.

The New York statute of limitations for most negligence (injury) cases is three years (for medical malpractice cases it is usually 2 ½ years). These statutes of limitations are generously long for a reason; you can’t know how much to sue for, or how much to settle for, untill you see whether the injury will heal, how it will heal, what the client has to go through to heal (i.e. surgery, physical therapy), whether there will be any permanent disabilities, and if so, how bad they will be. So at first, before a lawsuit is filed, there is usually a long waiting period.

The problem is that some lawyers don’t carefully diary the statute of limitations while they wait for the injury to play itself out. If the statute of limitations goes by without a lawsuit being filed, the case is dead. But if your lawyer missed your statute of limitations, your case is not REALLY dead, it is just transformed from a case against the careless person or company that caused your injury into a case against the careless lawyer who missed your statute of limitations.

But guess what? A lot of lawyers who miss statutes of limitations or other filing deadlines don’t tell their client. Instead, they try to talk the client into dropping the case, claiming that the case is not winnable. Of course this is completely unethical, deceptive and dishonest. But believe me, it happens all the time. Lawyers don’t want to be sued, even though they usually have malpractice insurance to cover them for their mistakes. It hurts their pride.

So, if your lawyer at first told you had a good case, but now he wants you to drop it, do some math. How long has it been since your accident? Then call me and we’ll talk.

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2 responses to “How to Know When Your Lawyer Has Committed Legal Malpractice in Your Case.”

  1. I represent plaintiffs in legal malpractice cases in Las Vegas, Nevada. Like you it is disappointing when the attorney has not only botched the case but is dishonest about it. I’d be interested to know if you have ever recovered additional compensation for the dishonesty of the attorney in trying to conceal his error. In Nevada it is hard to get additional damages for this sort of dishonesty. Rather, the dishonesty is mainly useful for persuading the defense that a trial would be particularly unpleasant for the defendant attorney.

  2. Jonathan, my experience is the same as yours. Under New York Judiciary Law § 487, a malpracticed client may have a right to treble damages against the attorney if the attorney made fraudulent representations to plaintiff and plaintiff was thereby deceived and damaged. Section 487 does not permit recovery for an attempted but unsuccessful deceit, but juries of course will hate such a defendant.

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