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Legal Malpractice

The Syracuse legal malpractice lawyers at Michaels & Smolak are the only firm in the Central New York area who handles a significant number of legal malpractice cases. Many other Syracuse-area lawyers do not want to sue their fellow lawyers when they make mistakes that harm clients.

We take another view. Yes, lawyers make mistakes, like anyone else. And when they do, the injured client has a right to competent legal representation to recover his or her damages stemming from the malpractice. Of course they do. And we are there for those injured clients.

There are thousands of mistakes a lawyer can make. Your attorney may have missed a deadline (such as a statute of limitations) that resulted in your case being dismissed. Or your attorney may have made other mistakes that resulted in a bad outcome for you. If a lawyer's representation of you departed from the accepted standard of care for lawyers, and this departure (error) caused you to suffer damages, you may have a legal malpractice claim against your lawyer. Again, we believe that Michaels & Smolak is the only legal malpractice law firm in the Syracuse and Central New York area with significant experience handling legal malpractice cases. Please contact us for a free consultation with an experienced legal malpractice lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation. If you want to know more about legal malpractice cases, read below.

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When an attorney makes a mistake in handling a case or transaction, for example, missing important deadlines, the client may bring a malpractice claim against the attorney. The most common legal malpractice claims include: missed statute of limitations in filing claim or suit, other missed deadlines, conflict of interest, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of attorney–client privilege, accounting errors, transactional errors, billing fraud or other deception, and just plain "incompetence". The Syracuse legal malpractice attorneys of Michaels & Smolak is one of the only firms in our geographic area that handles a significant amount of legal negligence claims. Please contact us to discuss your legal malpractice case. Read more about legal malpractice claims below.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Legal Malpractice Claims in New York?

Generally, 3 years from the date of you were malpracticed. However, there are exceptions. For example, if the victim is a child under 18 years old, his or her statute of limitations does not even start to run until he or she is 18, so normally it would expire on his or her 21st birthday. Further, if the lawyer who malpracticed your case continued to represent you on the same matter after he made his mistake, the statute of limitations is "tolled" (meaning it does not start to run) until the last day he represents you on that same matter. There are exceptions that may apply to your case. Contact us to discuss your statutes of limitations.

What Kind of Damages am I entitled to in a Legal Malpractice Case?

You are entitled to everything you lost because of the malpractice, including whatever you would have won in the underlying case, or everything you had to pay because of the malpractice, including a return of any attorneys’ fees you paid. In addition, you are entitled to interest on the amount of your damages at 9% annually, usually starting from the date the legal malpractice was committed.

What do I Prove My Legal Malpractice Case?

You have to prove that your lawyer departed from the accepted standard of care for lawyers, and this departure (error) caused you to suffer damages. The “causation” element of the case is often hotly disputed. The lawyer who malpracticed you will essentially say, “Ok, I may have made a mistake, but it doesn’t matter because you would have lost the case I was representing you on anyway”! This defense is legally permissible: As the malpracticed client, you have to prove that, but for the attorney’s mistake, you would have won the underlying case, or that you would not have suffered the loss. This is called “proving the case within the case”. For example, if your attorney missed the statute of limitations on your motor vehicle accident case, you now have to prove not only that he was negligent in missing the statute of limitations (that’s easy!), but also that you would have won the underlying case against the negligent driver. You will have to call all the witnesses from the motor vehicle accident to testify, etc. (Note: In certain cases, however, it is enough to show that you were forced to settle the underlying case for less than the case was worth because of the malpractice.)

What if I can’t Afford a Lawyer?

That's impossible. A reputable legal malpractice attorney in the Syracuse New York area – or anywhere -- will not charge you for an initial consultation. Michaels & Smolak will give you a free consultation. If we decide to represent you, we will charge you on a contingency fee basis, which is usually 1/3 of the net recovery we obtain for you, whether from a settlement or from a jury. Since the initial consultation is free, why wait? So contact us today for a free consultation.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
He is one of the top lawyers in central New York & has the accolades to show for this, but in my book he's the top lawyer in the country. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Bersani & to have had him on my team! Matthew
★★★★★
I admire the amount of background work he did which was instrumental in getting me a very good settlement. Also, having never been involved in a personal injury lawsuit, Michael was very patient explaining the legal issues. You're in good hands with Michael Bersani and the firm of Michaels & Smolak. Richard
★★★★★
Dave took over my wrongful death case after it was badly messed up by another lawyer. He was dogged in his pursuit of all the information needed to make a solid case, and he succeeded in bringing it to a very satisfactory settlement. He was honest and straightforward, kind and compassionate through meetings, depositions, court appearances. I highly recommend him. Christine
★★★★★
Dave has handled our legal matters for over 20 years. Always there when we needed him. We were so happy with his professionalism and results that we referred him to several friends. If we ever need this type of service again, Dave will be the first and only call we make. Jackie