The derivation of the term “deadline” is murky. Some argue that it traces back to the 1860s during the U.S. Civil War. The theory goes that it was used in prisoner of war camps to mark the boundary beyond which an inmate would be shot. After the turn of the 20th century, publishing normalized the term as a way of marking the printing cutoff time for adding any text.
Today, deadlines are common in many fields. In the practice of law, they are framed in the context of the statute of limitations. These are the deadlines for prosecuting all cases, whether civil or criminal. Missing a deadline means losing the right to press the case. In criminal court, that could mean a suspect goes free. In a civil case, it could mean losing the chance to recover for damages suffered.
Keeping an eye on the time
When you hire an attorney to litigate a dispute on your behalf, you have a right to expect his or her dedication to representing your interests in full compliance with the law. That includes knowing any deadlines for filing of legal paperwork in your case and properly planning to meet each one.
Anyone can miss a deadline, but if you hire an attorney and his or her procrastination causes you irreparable harm, a case for legal malpractice may exist. However, you need to be aware that you, too, face a deadline to bring suit under the state’s statutes of limitations.
In California, the law requires claims of legal malpractice to be brought within one year of the discovery of a wrongful act or that the attorney failed to take action called for under terms of professional service and set standards of practice. In some circumstances, the deadline extends out to as long as four years.
Deadlines are only one action that might support a claim of legal malpractice. There are others. Every case is different and deserves to be assessed on its own merits. One thing that is common to all such actions, however, is that there is always a window of time within which action must be taken. And that requires working with an attorney with a proven track record in handling malpractice claims.