Lawyers are human beings, which means they sometimes make mistakes. People lose lawsuits in Massachusetts and around the country often blame their attorneys, and they sometimes accuse them of legal malpractice. Attorneys just like other professionals commit malpractice when they provide services that do not meet generally accepted standards, and they may be held responsible in court when those mistakes cause their clients harm.
Not all mistakes made by an attorney meet the definition of legal malpractice. The correct strategy in a lawsuit often becomes clear after the case is settled or the jury has returned a verdict, but many people expect their lawyers to know exactly what to do from the beginning. Not pursuing the right trial strategy may not be sufficient grounds to support a legal malpractice claim, but not knowing the law, showing up to court drunk or working in cahoots with the opposing party probably would be.
Attorneys are only ordered to pay compensation to the victims of legal malpractice when their mistakes caused them losses. This means that the plaintiffs in these cases must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the mistake changed the outcome. For example, if an attorney in Massachusetts fails to file a personal injury lawsuit within the time permitted by the state’s statute of limitations, they will only be ordered to pay damages if the party alleging legal malpractice can convince the court that they would have won the case if the papers had been filed on time.
Lawyers who make mistakes are often accused of legal malpractice, but few of them are ordered to pay damages. This is because parties that make legal malpractice allegations must be able to convince a court that their outcome would have been better if the mistake had not been made. If you want to avoid becoming the victim of legal malpractice, you should perform thorough due diligence and check professional organizations like the Massachusetts Bar Association before you hire an attorney.