Buying or selling real estate is a significant financial commitment and a stressful experience for many Illinois residents. Some families hire a real estate attorney to guide them through the transaction and execute the due diligence necessary to avoid costly mistakes.
However, lawyers can make mistakes. Maybe your lawyer failed to properly execute a title search, did not disclose pertinent information or acted in opposition to your wishes. Now, you are left cleaning up an expensive mistake and believe that your attorney is to blame. Could you pursue a legal malpractice claim?
Four key elements to legal malpractice
There must be four standard elements present for a valid legal malpractice suit:
- You must have established a client-attorney relationship
- Your attorney was negligent or made a mistake in your case
- Your attorney's actions harmed your case's outcome
- Your attorney's actions caused a financial loss
To be malpractice, the result must always tie the attorney's mistake to a client's financial loss.
Expectation of competence
One of the ways that the court measures whether you have a malpractice suit is whether your attorney behaved as any other competent attorney in the same region and situation would act. If the attorney breaches best practices, you have a better chance of proving legal malpractice. If your attorney failed to thoroughly execute a title search, but they can argue that they acted as any other attorney would, it may not be considered malpractice.
An experienced malpractice lawyer can evaluate your circumstances and advise whether you have a case for malpractice. Malpractice can be difficult to prove; many mistakes are considered just that and not malpractice. Your attorney will additionally need to secure an expert witness, in this case another attorney, who is willing and able to support your claim for malpractice.
If your case is successful, you can recover the economic damages suffered from your original lawyer's negligence, and their attorney fees. Unlike other types of suits, you cannot recover additional damages for suffered emotional turmoil or pain and suffering.