If you’ve been hurt or a family member has died as a result of someone else’s actions or negligence, you deserve compensation. So you hire a Kansas City personal injury lawyer, file an injury claim, which becomes a lawsuit, and you expect your lawyer to do their best throughout the whole process. However, not only do you lose your case, but you suspect your lawyer did not exactly do his or her job.
It is possible to sue your lawyer. The grounds of the suit have to be very specific, well documented and show that his or her work – or lack thereof – caused your claim to be dismissed.
If you filed a Kansas City car accident claim against the other driver, you have to show the driver’s actions or carelessness caused the accident. In a sense, the same is true if you’re filing a lawsuit against your lawyer; you would have to show that the lawyer was negligent, in which case four things must be true:
- Duty of care – Your lawyer owed you a duty to act properly.
- Breach of duty – Your lawyer made a mistake, didn’t prepare or otherwise do the work that you were paying him or her to do.
- Causation – Their improper actions caused you financial harm.
- Damages – There was also financial losses incurred on your part.
A case can be lost even if your lawyer does everything he or she could have done to win; a loss alone is not grounds for a lawsuit against him or her. You must be able to show that you would have won your case if your lawyer hadn’t mishandled information.
Lack of Communication
The most common grounds for incompetence is lack of communication; you’re not a lawyer, so you expect the one you hired to keep you constantly update with any information relevant to your case. When emails, calls, texts and all other attempts to contact go unreturned, writing a letter which relays all of your concerns should get his or her attention, so long as you don’t threaten to sue.
Another route is to suggest a mediator; just because your lawyer may be somewhat aloof doesn’t mean they aren’t great at his or her job and working hard on your case. If you feel that it just isn’t working out, you can fire your lawyer. If he or she attempts to bill you for services, you can always speak with a second lawyer to determine if you have the right of refusal to pay.
If you are experiencing this problem, document all attempts to contact your lawyer. Be prepared to write down anything or, if you feel it necessary, record the conversation. Missouri is a “one-party consent” state when it comes to recording, so as long as you are a part of the conversation – i.e. one of the parties – you are allowed to record it, for the most part. If you are communicating through a wired device or in a setting in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, you cannot record the conversation. You want to do anything you can to prevent getting into a “he said, she said” situation against your lawyer, but be careful.
There are many grounds for a malpractice lawsuit against your attorney. If he or she got your case dismissed because he or she didn’t do the work, lied to you or the judge, or accepted a settlement without your authorization, these would all qualify as malpractice. Another big malpractice act is misusing your funds paid if you kept him or her on retainer. The money you pay should be used solely towards your case.
If you believe malpractice has occurred or is occurring, do your research first. Examine the strategies which your lawyer is using and figure out if there is a better approach. A lawsuit against your lawyer will likely be a long, drawn out, and complicated battle. You are allowed to access your file; anything filed in court or other correspondence regarding your case is your right to see. You can go to the judge, the state bar association or your new lawyer for help in accessing it. Taking the time to research and compile as much evidence as possible will remove all doubt.
How to File a Lawsuit Against Your Lawyer
A lawsuit against your lawyer may be expensive, as he or she can use legal knowledge to turn the case into a hard fought battle. You will need to hire a lawyer to help you, so be prepared to pay for the services. Before you hire a new one, you need to fire your current one. If you do this and your original case’s court date is imminent, your new lawyer will need to work long hours to get up to speed. You’ll need to file a claim with the state bar association against the lawyer as well.
If your original lawyer attempts to bill you for services, do not agree to pay any of it. Examine this bill closely, because it can often be vague. If it looks like: 20 hours at $200 per hour = $4,000 and says little else, you can request more specifics. If he or she says four hours were spent writing a letter to the opposition, but it’s only two paragraphs long, then the bill would be up for serious question.
If you want to try and avoid a court battle against your lawyer, you can try and go the arbitration route. This will allow for out-of-court negotiations with a mediator to resolve disputes. Some states actually require this, but Missouri is not one of them. An arbitration agreement can either be non-binding or binding.
Non-binding means that you can challenge the arbitration decision, but you would need to submit your rejection within 30 days. Of course, this means that the lawyer could challenge the decision as well. Binding means that neither party is allowed an appeal. Read the fee agreement with your lawyer carefully before signing, as it may contain a binding arbitration clause.