My lawyer just told me that she missed the statute of limitations on my car accident case.
What does that mean? What do I do now?
If you just spoke with your lawyer and he or she told you that they missed the “statute of limitations” with respect to your car accident case, you might be experiencing emotions ranging from anger to confusion. To begin, you may have never heard the term “statute of limitations.” A statute of limitations generally means the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If you do not file your lawsuit within the time permitted under the law, then your right to forever pursue your claim can be lost. At that point, your likely only claim would be against the lawyer that negligently failed to timely file your lawsuit.
When you retain a lawyer, you place a lot of trust in him or her. So, when your lawyer misses a key deadline that forever harms your case, you can be confused as to how the attorney could have allowed that to happen. You are not alone in that regard. Initially, you must know that most attorneys do not intentionally miss a key deadline, such as a statute of limitations. Usually, this kind of mistake arises from a failure to properly calendar the statute of limitations applicable to your claim. Even though that it is a simple mistake at its core, it can have a devastating impact upon you, as the Client.
If your lawyer handled your auto accident case correctly, you would have needed to show that the driver of the other car was “negligent.” Negligent or negligence is a legal term that basically means you have to show that the other driver did something wrong that caused you injuries and damages. The technical terms or elements of negligence are typically identified as being: (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) causation; and (4) damages. In the legal malpractice case, you will also need to prove that the driver of the other care was negligent. That is often referred to as proving the “case within a case” or “trial within a trial.” You will also need to show, though, that the lawyer breached the applicable standard of care and that breach caused you damage. So, for example, if the lawyer failed to timely file a lawsuit that you were likely going to lose, then you might have trouble establishing that the lawyer caused you any damage. However, if you had a very good underlying case, then you will likely have a very good case against the lawyer for missing the deadline.
You typically will need to hire expert witnesses to support facets of the auto accident case and your legal malpractice case. In the underlying auto accident case, you may have needed several experts, such as accident reconstruction experts, medical doctors, life care planners, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and economist, among other experts. In the legal malpractice case, you will likely need these same experts, but you will also likely need a legal standard of care expert. A legal standard of care expert is typically an attorney that regularly handles automobile accidents and can talk about how an attorney should competently handle such a claim (i.e., that a lawyer should file the lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires). While a legal standard of care expert is not always necessary in a case involving a missed deadline, such as a statute of limitations, whether to retain one is a consideration that an attorney at Henderson Law can assist you with in relation to your claim.
Henderson Law can also assist you with placing a value on your lost claim. In terms of that analysis, it may be driven by the amount of the policy limits for the negligent driver and, perhaps, whether the driver had any collectible assets beyond his or her insurance limits. If the driver did not have collectible assets beyond his or her available insurance limits, then the value of your claim may be limited to the amount of insurance maintained by the driver in the underlying matter. If you do not know that amount, do not worry. Henderson Law may be able to secure that information for you through the issuance of subpoenas and other discovery methods.
Call Now to Learn About Your Legal Malpractice Claim
If your lawyer just told you that he or she missed the statute of limitations, then you may have a number of questions as to what you can do next. We are here to help answer those questions. At Henderson Law, we have successfully handled claims where lawyers have not timely filed lawsuits on behalf of their clients. With this experience, we are here to answer your questions and help you navigate through the process. You should feel free to call Henderson Law to discuss your potential new matter (410) 721-1979. We look forward to speaking with you.