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What Is Legal Malpractice?

Posted by Lara Vitiello on October 5, 2015

scalesgavelLegal malpractice is a type of professional negligence. It is defined, under Missouri law, by failure of an attorney to exercise the degree of care, skill, and learning in representing a client that is ordinarily exercised by other attorneys under the same or similar situations.

The most common types of legal malpractice are missing deadlines, inadequate trial preparation, improper contract preparation, and attempts to cover up misconduct.

Even if an attorney is found negligent for failure to perform a duty (ie. failure to file paperwork on time), it does not mean they will pay compensation to the victim or pay punitive damages as a punishment. For that to happen, yet another threshold of proof is required. Going a step further, the victim must prove that the attorney’s failure to perform the specific duty directly caused losses to the victim or directly caused the loss of the case. In other words, had the paperwork been filed on time, then the outcome of the case would have been different.

If it can be proven the attorney malpractice involved intentional wrongful conduct or conscious disregard for the interests of the client, it may be possible to recover punitive damages for the purpose of punishment of the attorney.  In some cases, it may also be possible to recover compensation for mental anguish.

In Missouri there is a five year statute of limitation on filing a legal malpractice claim. There are exceptions to this rule, for example – if the victim was too young to file a claim in their own name during the five year period. If you have a possible claim, but are not sure if the statute of limitations has expired or if there may be a potential exception to the rule, it is best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney.

Oftentimes it is difficult to find an experienced legal malpractice attorney. This is because many personal injury/plaintiff’s attorneys choose not to handle these types of cases. They simply don’t feel comfortable filing a lawsuit against another attorney or colleague within their community.

The attorneys at Casey & Devoti have over 30 years of experience handling legal malpractice cases.  They are keenly aware of the difficulty in proving these types of cases.  However, they are committed to holding professionals accountable for their negligence – no matter the profession.   In fact, our attorneys feel it would be hypocritical to handle medical malpractice cases and not legal malpractice cases.


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