Attorney Malpractice Statistics

Did you know that approximately 55,000 attorneys will face an allegation of Professional Liability this year?   As professional liability is our speciality, we thought we would share some insight into professional liability litigation and where your firm can help prevent it.

Litigation Statistics

  • More than 70 percent of reported claims arise from firms with less than five attorneys.
  • One out of every five claims is initiated by a non-client.
  • Claim damages of over $2 million have doubled in frequency since 2010.
  • Damages are paid on 1/3 of all claims.

Alleged Errors

  • Failure to Know (11.3%) – This category applies where the attorney was unaware of the legal principles involved, or where the attorney did the research but failed to ascertain the appropriate principles.  The category also applies where the lawyer simply fails to see the legal implications of the known facts, such as where the attorney knows the client has children who are not to receive anything under the client’s will, but fails to recognize the requirement that the children be mentioned in the will.
  • Planning Error (8.9%) – This category applies, for example, to a contested proceeding where a lawyer has an adequate knowledge of the facts and legal principles and makes an error in judgement as to how the client’s matter should be handled. The cases here are those involving allegedly wrong decisions where the lawyer knows the facts and law.
  • Inadequate Discovery/Investigation (8.8%) – This category includes cases where the claimant alleges that certain facts which should have been discovered by the attorney in a careful investigation or in the use of discovery procedures were not discovered or discerned.
  • Failure to File Documents Where No Deadline is Involved (8.6%) – This category applies when there is no deadline by which an act has to occur to be effective, but rather where the filing of a document or notice is necessary to perfect a client’s interests against the claim of another party. A typical example is the requirement for filing of a mortgage on real estate to protect the priority interest of the mortgagee against those acquiring a subsequent interest.
  • Failure to Calendar Properly (6.7%) – This category covers the situation where the lawyer was aware of the existence of a time deadline and what it was, but did not initiate any kind of calendar entry as a reminder to himself or others in the office.

Riskiest Areas of Practice

The following areas of practice are the  most likely to be involved in a claim:

  • Real Estate
  • Collection/Bankruptcy
  • Corporate & Securities
  • Litigation Defense
  • Personal Injury
  • Trusts & Estates
  • Business Transactions/Commercial Law
  • Intellectual Property
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