Data reveal that legal malpractice claims have become more regular for the last three decades. There are several examples where a customer loses trust in the abilities of his attorney because the latter made matters worse instead of providing a solution to the issue. However, showing a legal malpractice claim could be difficult as it frequently requires extensive search for suitable arguments and corroborating evidence. Despite the existence of actual damages, there are other factors that need to be analyzed to ascertain whether a claim of legal malpractice should be filed.
If the customer can show that the Oregon lawyer negligence or wrongful act resulted in damages, such damages could be recovered by filing a legal malpractice suit. However, there are cases where damages are not readily ascertainable.
Customers are likely to be more successful with the healing of so-called “direct” damages. These are damages that have been the immediate outcome of an attorney’s negligence or misconduct. For instance, in a case where an attorney wrongfully advises his client to file for bankruptcy and sell his house for a lower cost than its market value, the court is likely to award the client damages to the extent of what he lost from the sale. In another case, a California court awarded damages to a doctor due to the loss of his great standing and the increase in premiums for his medical malpractice insurance due to his lawyer’s neglect.
If the customer can demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that the lawyer can be held liable for fraud, malice or oppression, even punitive damages may be recovered. However, customer-plaintiffs who have been denied the award of compensatory damages will not be entitled to punitive damages. In general, it is more difficult to prove the existence of punitive damages as courts generally require special facts to prove that the solicitor acted with oppression, fraud or malice. In one rare case, the court of appeals gave punitive damages due to an attorney’s “conscious disregard of plaintiff’s security”. In that case, Oregon lawyers, who was also a doctor, advised his client to postpone the surgery in order to reinforce their medical malpractice suit even though he knew about the urgency of a surgery.