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Just as in medical malpractice, legal malpractice is what happens when an attorney does not discharge his or her duties according to the established standards and codes of ethical and professional conduct in the legal practice, especially as adopted by the state in which the lawyer practices. This code of ethics, typically referred to as the Model Rules of Ethics, or Ethical Rules, stipulates how a lawyer should act in various situations, as far as the legal profession is concerned.
According to the Ethical Rules, a lawyer is obligated to, in all dealings, transactions, and relations with a client, act and perform his duties and responsibilities with good faith, honesty, fairness, and fidelity. It is also required by the code of ethics of the legal profession that an attorney must possess the legal skill and knowledge as it is necessary for all members of the profession. This means that a lawyer should not take any action contravening these rules or such as even suggesting the appearance of impropriety.
WHAT IS LEGAL MALPRACTICE?
Legal malpractice is the term used to denote the negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, or breach of contract on the part of a lawyer, while he or she provides legal services in such a way that it causes harm to a client. In other words, legal malpractice happens when a lawyer fails to carry out the responsibilities expected of him or her, as stipulated by the standards of the legal profession.
It is important to note that not getting the desired or expected outcome in a case is not enough reason to file a legal malpractice claim. The complainant must be able to prove that the attorney has been negligent, breached the contract of his or her legal service, or has violated the code of ethics of the profession.
WHAT IS REQUIRED TO FILE A CLAIM OF LEGAL MALPRACTICE IN NEW JERSEY?
Under the law of New Jersey and other parts of the United States, in order to file a claim of legal malpractice against an attorney, the complainant must be able to prove that there was an actionable level of negligence or an actual breach of a legal duty of care by the attorney. The proof must show that the attorney’s acts were not merely due to poor strategy, but that these acts resulted from errors that no dutiful and prudent attorney would make.
While the elements required to start an action for legal malpractice may vary by state across the United States, the NJ law stipulates four elements for a legal malpractice action. These elements are stated as follows:
- There was attorney-client relationship: This requires the complainant to establish that the lawyer was hired to provide legal services and that the lawyer mutually agreed to represent you. By the terms of this contract, the attorney owed the client a duty to provide competent and skillful representation. This is a necessary requirement for the legal malpractice claim.
- There was negligence or violation of the code of ethics by the attorney: A complainant must be able to prove that the hired attorney contravened and breached the established standards. The complainant may also prove that the attorney was somehow negligent in the discharge of the legal or fiduciary duties to the client by acting carelessly or making an avoidable mistake.
- The negligence resulted in loss or injury to the client: Even when attorney had made an obvious mistake, it must be proven that the mistake had injured the client. The classic example of negligence is the attorney who did not file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired. Even if it was an inexcusable blunder, it can only warrant a viable legal malpractice claim if the client can prove to a legal certainty that the outcome would have been different should the attorney had been more prudent.
- The harm caused a financial loss or injury to the client: In addition to the above conditions, the complainant must be able to prove that the attorney’s negligent action had also led to a financial loss or additional expenses.
LOOKING FOR A COMPETENT LEGAL MALPRACTICE ATTORNEY IN NJ? HIRE US!
If you feel that you’ve been misrepresented by your attorney in the course of any legal action, our competent lawyers, who are experienced and with a stupendous track record of winning legal malpractice cases, can help you seek redress and rectify any setbacks that another attorney may have caused you!
We know it may be quite difficult to trust another attorney with your case, considering that you have been a victim of legal malpractice. However, our lawyers are reliable and civil trial attorneys who know the importance of high-quality legal representation and objective communication with clients. On your behalf, our attorneys will painstakingly investigate violations of standard of care, file new claims and suits against former legal counsels if necessary, and seek to recover damages.
Under the laws of New Jersey, you have up to six years to file a claim for legal malpractice. That means, even if it happened quite long ago, you can talk with our attorneys about your claims and they’ll help you decide on the best course of action to take. Our firm is known for having a team of attorneys who exhibit excellence and unparalleled competence in the legal profession across Jersey City.
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