If you look around the phonebook or internet, you probably won’t see many Illinois legal malpractice law firms. That is for a few reasons. One, these cases are difficult. Two some attorneys (hypocritically in our opinion) don’t want to promote that they do this type of work because they worry about backlash from other attorneys. Three, they want to promote other areas of law instead. Rest assured though, if you have a good case there are plenty of attorneys that handle these matters.
So how do you know if you have a good case? Few things to consider:
1. Did I suffer irreparable harm? Your lawyer might have screwed up, but if his error can be fixed then you don’t have a case.
2. As bad as the work was, is it a judgment call situation? If an attorney fails to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations is up, that is clearly malpractice. But if they don’t do what you asked them to or don’t do it well that is a tough case to prove negligence. There is a big difference between legal negligence and just bad lawyering.
3. Had the law firm done everything correctly would they have won the case? You have to essentially prove two cases, the lawyer screwup and the original case. That’s not always as easy as it sounds, especially in more complex cases where the defendants usually win like medical malpractice.
4. What damage was caused? If the harm suffered was only a few thousand of dollars, it probably isn’t cost effective to file a lawsuit. If it’s not financial harm, but emotional (e.g. limited child visitation), even if you can prove a mistake, how do you quantify damages?
As you can tell (hopefully), this isn’t always easy to accomplish, but it’s certainly worth exploring. Finally, if your lawyer has made a mistake, damages or not or if they are just unethical you can file a complaint with the organization that regulates lawyers in Illinois, iardc.org.
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