Legal Malpractice

Peter Klose represents clients throughout New York State who have suffered substantial financial injury due to attorney malpractice. Attorneys are no different than other professionals and are financially responsible if their attorney negligence causes financial injury. We stand ready to assist clients who have suffered serious financial injury due to lawyer negligence, professional misconduct and ethical wrongs. Legal malpractice can include the following examples:

  • conflicts of interest
  • failure to convey settlement offers to a client
  • attorney negligence in handling a personal injury claim
  • malpractice in drafting contracts
  • real estate malpractice - including purchase agreements, title searches, and real estate transactions
  • trial malpractice
  • fee disputes
  • disciplinary matters
  • ethics complaints
  • mishandling or theft of client funds

Common Types of Attorney Negligence

Introduction

Klose & Associates's Legal malpractice lawyers are frequently retained when lawyers representing clients fail to bring a case within the applicable Statute of Limitations or “legal deadline,” which is the most common example of attorney negligence. Sometimes attorneys miss the statute of limitations by filing too late out of ignorance of the legal deadline, law office failure, sloppy record keeping, or plain ignorance of the law.

Statute of Limitations and Legal Deadlines

The “Statue of Limitations” is generally a law (“statute”) that defines the legal time limit for bringing an “action” or case against the defendant or adverse party. These legal deadlines vary from state to state, court to court, and are sometimes very complex. Your attorney must take care to understand the factual scenario of the case and calculate the legally defined time period for commencing a given type of court proceeding before the legal deadline acts to bar you from filing or “commencing” the action or court proceeding. Sometimes, your case can be dismissed even after it was filed if the attorney fails to respond to court order or comply with court imposed deadlines. Some common examples various Statutes of Limitation or legal deadlines include:

Four Month Statute of Limitations against a Public Body or Officer– shortest Statute of Limitations in New York. This can sometimes be reduced to thirty days in some cases, so be careful to immediately discuss the limitations period with your attorney.

One Year Legal Deadlines– Many people fail to realize that intentional acts such as assault or battery or defamation claims in New York have a one year statute of limitations.

Two Year Statute of Limitations– cases involving the wrongful death of a loved one must be commenced within two years of the death, but can sometimes be “tolled” or extended, depending upon the factual scenario of the case.

Medical Malpractice Actions– Generally must be commenced within two and half years of the negligence, but there are other very specific rules and regulations relative to the calculation of the limitations period. You should contact an attorney to understand the periods applicable in your case.

Three Years Statute of Limitations– In most Personal Injury and negligence cases, the more common time period for commencing some common actions arising from the negligence of others (non-professional) is a three year limitation period. These are probably the most common types of statutes because many of the cases filed in New York involve car accidents and other negligence actions. Attorney Negligence, Accountant Malpractice, and other professional malpractice including against Architects must be brought within three (3) years.

Six Year Statute of Limitations for most contract and fraud claims.

Collection of Judgments. The longest is an action to enforce a judgment – twenty years, however, the judgment must be renewed within ten (10) years.

Other Common Legal Deadlines

Notices of Claims Against Municipalities and the State of New York. To commence a claim against a City or State body, there is often a very strict requirement that you give notice of your intent to make a claim within ninety (90), and sometimes sixty (60) days. This “Notice of Claim” is a first step to filing such claims against various public bodies. Attorneys are charged with the responsibility of knowing, given your legal status and factual situation whether they must file against the municipality (ninety days), the State of New York, the United States (two years), and must know what to do immediately.

Notice of Appeal. If you lose a motion or a case, the attorneys must also file a “notice of appeal” within thirty (30) days, or the appeal may be barred. Again, the period in which to file specific legal notices, including the a notice of appeal, is a technical requirement giving you a legal right. If the attorney misses it, and a court does not permit your legal matter to move forward, your claim may be dismissed.

Oddly, attorneys retained within days of an injury commonly fail to file a lawsuit until just before (or just after) the Statute of Limitations expires. Professional malpractice claims then arise.

Calculating the Period of Time for a Statute of Limitations is Complex

Each and every case that arises against a defendant requires a careful analysis of the Statute of Limitations. Often there are special rules for determining when the time period to file the action begins, whether there are any exceptions to that time period, and whether case law or statutory law offers any extensions to the typical time periods. For example, when suing a doctor, his “continuous treatment” might extend the time period. In fraud claims the time to file action might run from the time the fraud is “discovered,” effectively extending your time to file an action. That is no substitute for diligently bringing action. Similarly, minors, infants or children and mentally disabled people have certain rights to extend the deadlines for varying periods of time. Consult an attorney.

Legal malpractice cases are difficult to assess. We at Klose & Associates thoroughly investigate the factual scenario of each Statute of Limitation or Missed Legal Deadline case we consider. In each case, it is unlikely that the attorney knew every nuance of your case when the attorney took it, but is responsible for, and legally obliged to comply with each and every fact and nuance of the statute. If we are retained to bring a lawsuit against a lawyer for missing a Statute of Limitations or a Legal Deadline, each fact, law, and case that informs our decision as to the “legal malpractice” must be patiently and meticulously investigated. If they made a mistake, we aggressively prosecute the malpractice.

Handling Client Monies and Ethics Complaints.

Unfortunately, certain legal professionals mishandle client funds, whether by inadvertence, negligence, or intentional misappropriation of the client monies. We are sometimes retained for our experience as legal malpractice lawyers when lawyers representing clients mishandle their clients' funds. Often these cases arise out of situations where attorneys are handling funds for their clients for real estate closings, estates (probate) and personal injury settlements. Since it is client money, there are strict rules regulating how attorneys must hold and account for the clients’ funds. Unfortunately, there are lawyers who cannot resist the temptation to “borrow” money from their clients, with the "intention" of paying it back.

Handling Client Funds

Our ethical, moral and statutory obligations strictly require attorneys to hold clients’ funds as “fiduciaries” in accounts separate from any of the attorney’s money (commingling of funds is prohibited). When large amounts of money are being held for months or years, lawyers generally place such funds in a separate account for the benefit of the individual client, which account sometimes earns interest payable to that client. Alternatively, if the funds are modest, or funds held only for a short time, lawyers are permitted to deposit funds of several clients together in a single account, provided that it is set up in accordance with the guidelines of the Office of Court Administration in an account sometimes called an IOLA (“Interest on Lawyer’s Account”) account. The interest on IOLA accounts is paid to the Fund for Client Protection, which is a sort of insurance fund for clients whose attorneys have misappropriated their money. People who are victims of such attorneys can apply to be compensated for the loss. Lawyers who are found guilty of taking money from escrow accounts for their own use are almost always severely punished. Even the partners of an attorney who misuses a client’s funds may be held responsible, even if they were unaware that it happened. Penalties for mishandling clients’ funds often result in suspension from law practice, and sometimes disbarment. Criminal prosecution is usually reserved for lawyers who outright steal large sums of money. The Judiciary Law allows for triple or “treble” damages against attorneys who intentionally misuse client funds.

Where Lawyers have Mishandled Client Funds, we at Klose & Associates have found creative ways to enforce the attorneys’ solemn duty with the funds entrusted by the client.

Please Contact Us if you need more information.