Not always. Probably 80% of attorneys in private practice in Arizona are covered by insurance, but it is not required by the State Bar.
We take cases on both a contingency fee basis and on an hourly basis. Which arrangement we go with will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.
In most cases, two years from when you discovered or should have discovered the malpractice through the exercise of
Legal malpractice occurs when your attorney (not the opposing attorney) fails to act as a reasonable attorney would under the same or similar circumstances and this failure causes you economic damages that would not have occurred, but for the failure.
In order to prove causation, legal malpractice attorneys must sometimes prove what the outcome of the underlying case would have been if it had been handled properly. This is called “the case within a case.”
A second theory of recovery against attorneys is breach of fiduciary duty. Your attorney must take all reasonable steps to safeguard your interests while acting as your attorney and honor confidences.
Breach of fiduciary duty claims usually do not involve a mistake, they involve an attorney deliberately putting their interests ahead of yours or a blatant conflict of interest.
An example would be the attorney buying property from a financially distressed client, not referring the client to another attorney for advice and then selling the property for a big profit.
We recently resolved a case where an attorney assured the client that she needed his assistance in collecting on her under insured motorist insurance policies, after a car accident. He collected $165,000 that she could easily have collected on her own and charged her a $58,000 fee. He also assured her that he was an expert on tire blowout cases – in fact, he had no experience in this area. After delaying for a long period in securing key evidence and being repeatedly warned that it would be destroyed if he did not secure it, the key evidence was destroyed.
In one of our cases, a client who had defaulted on millions of dollars of real estate loans had complete immunity from a deficiency lawsuit by the bank under state statutes. The defendant attorney failed to make any effort to plead these statutes and as a result, the client was hit with a large deficiency judgment, despite the fact that state laws said the client was immune from such a judgment. This case resolved fairly quickly.
We obtained a large, confidential settlement for a client who was catastrophically injured when a truck ran into him. His lawyer recovered the first $100,000 of liability insurance, took a $35,000 fee and then, because he failed to read the insurance contract, voided $1,300,000 in insurance coverage to which the client would have been entitled. The defendant attorney was working for one of the largest law firms in the State of Arizona when the malpractice occurred.