Attorneys in California and throughout the country are generally required to act as a fiduciary. This means that they are supposed to act in a client’s best interest at all times. If this doesn’t happen, it could rise to the level of legal malpractice. Malpractice may occur if an attorney represents multiple parties in a case, and this can be problematic because it may interfere with his or her ability to act in an independent manner.
A conflict of interest could occur when a lawyer represents both the buyer and the seller in a real estate or business transaction. It could also occur when an attorney represents both parties in a divorce case. In some cases, an attorney may not be able to identify who the client is. This is not unheard of in cases involving a trust or a company that has evolved from a partnership to a corporate entity.
Legal counsel is generally not authorized to accept a settlement or make other decisions without a client’s consent. Ideally, an attorney will communicate with a client on a daily or weekly basis to keep that person informed about what is going on. Attorneys who fail to take action before a statute of limitations expires can also be guilty of malpractice. In some cases, a failure to act may result in an unfavorable settlement agreement.
If legal counsel fails to take reasonable actions in a case, it may rise to the level of malpractice. Generally speaking, legal mistakes must directly result in an unfavorable settlement or an inability to pursue compensation at trial. As with any other type of case, a legal malpractice matter might be settled before it goes to trial. Malpractice victims may be entitled to recover punitive damages and other forms of compensation.