By Adam T. Kronfeld of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in About the Law on Friday, April 26, 2013.
You may. When you hire an attorney to represent you, it is implied that the attorney will competently represent you, and will exhibit the skill, care, and dispatch equal to the standard of care that the law imposes upon him. Your attorney need not be perfect, but there is still a minimum level of competence and diligence that he or she must exhibit in representing your interests. If your attorney fails do that, and you sustain financial losses as a result, then you may have a claim for legal malpractice.
In Virginia, when you sue an attorney for legal malpractice, you are suing that attorney for breaching the contract of employment. Consequently, Virginia law requires that you be able to show actual economic losses. Said differently, you must be able to show that you failed to receive some identifiable value as a result of your attorney’s negligence. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, humiliation, loss of reputation, and other similar damages that might be available in other types of lawsuits, are not available in a legal malpractice lawsuit. The complaining client is strictly held to the value that he/she should have received, but failed to receive.
One notable exception to the foregoing rule involves malpractice in criminal cases. Where, as a result of your attorney’s malpractice, you are incarcerated, and thus suffer a loss of your personal liberty, you may be able to recover damages for that loss of liberty. There is no rule or guideline for the value of that incarceration, but one might expect that the longer one is wrongfully incarcerated, the greater the injury.
If you believe that your prior attorney has caused you damage by failing to properly represent you , you should speak to an attorney at The Duff Law Firm about the circumstances of your case. One of our attorneys can evaluate your prior attorney’s representation of you and advise you whether he or she was, in fact, negligent; the amount of the damages that you might be able to recover by way of a lawsuit against your former attorney; what degree of time and expense might face filing a lawsuit against your former attorney; and, ultimately, whether it is factually, legally and financially viable for you to pursue a legal malpractice claim against your former attorney.