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What is legal malpractice?

Under Florida law, legal malpractice results from the negligence or carelessness of a lawyer who fails to provide competent and skillful representation to a client, resulting in harm. Preventing such claims may be challenging because many clients do not understand the nuanced differences between unfavorable legal results and negligent representation. Fortunately, an attorney may successfully defend legal malpractice claims if the accused attorney followed the basic duty of care principles during the relevant representation.

Need help regarding legal malpractice defense? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.

What legal issues typically arise related to legal malpractice defense?

The following disputes are among the most common in legal malpractice suits:

  • Lack of Communication: Communication issues between attorneys and clients are common, even with modern technologies like cell phones and email.
  • Failure to File Documents: Failing to file necessary documents, or missing a filing deadline, is a common error that may result in a viable legal malpractice claim.
  • Failure to Know and Apply the Law: Failing to know and apply the law correctly and giving a client bad advice is a basis for a legal malpractice claim.
  • Inadequate Investigation or Discovery: Not conducting a thorough investigation or discovery process can lead to errors that may result in a legal malpractice claim.
  • Dabbling: Attorneys who venture outside their area of expertise can easily give bad advice. It’s important to stick to one’s area of expertise or to retain a competent supervising attorney.
  • Lack of Consent: Failing to obtain client consent or not following client instructions can result in legal malpractice claims.

What are relevant laws related to legal malpractice in Florida?

In Florida, the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct and the Florida Statutes govern legal malpractice claims and defenses.

The Florida Bar regulates the conduct of lawyers and maintains the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, which establish the standards of ethical conduct for attorneys licensed to practice law in Florida. These rules set forth the duties and obligations of lawyers in their professional relationships with clients, the court, and the public.

In addition, the Florida Statutes contain provisions that relate to legal malpractice claims. For example, Chapter 95 of the Florida Statutes sets forth the statute of limitations for legal malpractice claims, typically two years from when the client knew or should have known of the attorney’s negligent conduct.

What is required to prove a case of legal malpractice in Florida?

To prove a case of legal malpractice in Florida, a former client plaintiff must generally establish the following elements:

  • Duty: The attorney owed a duty to the client.
  • Breach: The attorney breached that duty by acting negligently or failing to provide competent legal representation.
  • Causation: The attorney’s breach of duty was the direct cause of the client’s damages or losses.
  • Damages: The client suffered actual damages or losses as a result of the attorney’s breach of duty.

In addition to these general elements, a plaintiff may also have to prove other specific requirements or factors depending on the circumstances of the case.

Proving legal malpractice can be a complex and challenging process, as it typically requires demonstrating that the attorney made a mistake and that the error caused harm to the client. Working with an experienced attorney who can help you build a strong case and navigate the legal process is essential to defend against a legal malpractice claim.

What are common defenses to legal malpractice defense in Florida?

There are several primary defenses that an attorney or law firm may raise in response to a legal malpractice claim in Florida. These defenses may include the following:

  • Lack of duty: The attorney may argue they did not owe the client a duty. For example, if the client was not the attorney’s client or if the attorney did not agree to represent the client in a specific matter, there may not be a duty owed.
  • No breach of duty: The attorney may argue they did not breach any duty owed to the client, that their conduct was in accordance with the applicable standard of care, or that they did not deviate from the reasonable practices and procedures of the legal profession.
  • Lack of causation: The attorney may argue that the attorney’s conduct did not cause any harm suffered by the client. For example, the attorney may argue that the client would have suffered the same injury even if the attorney had acted appropriately.
  • Contributory negligence: The attorney may argue that the client contributed to their own harm by failing to take reasonable steps to mitigate their damages or by providing incomplete or inaccurate information to the attorney.
  • Statute of limitations: The attorney may argue that the two-year statute of limitations bars the client’s claim.
  • Lack of damages: The attorney may argue that the client did not suffer any actual damages or losses as a result of the attorney’s conduct.

It is important to note that the availability and applicability of these defenses will depend on each case’s specific facts and circumstances. An experienced attorney can help evaluate the merits of a legal malpractice claim and the potential defenses that may be available.

We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

Have more questions about a legal malpractice-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of legal malpractice does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation.

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