Most providers of services are covered by some type of malpractice or liability insurance, giving their clients some measure of comfort that there is a means for recovery in the event of a mistake. Unfortunately, one cannot make this assumption about attorneys. In Florida, as in almost every other state, attorneys are not required to carry legal malpractice insurance. Furthermore, attorneys in Florida, as in many other states, are not even required to inform clients that they do not carry such insurance. The only way to know if your Florida attorney is insured against legal malpractice claims is, quite simply, to ask.
But My Attorney Carries Malpractice Insurance…Won’t My Claim be Covered?
The purpose of professional liability insurance, another term for malpractice insurance, is to protect providers of professional services from having to face the full cost of defending against claims of negligence from clients and from bearing the full cost of damages that may be awarded in a malpractice lawsuit.
Do not assume that an insured attorney means that your particular claim will be covered, however. Listed below are a few of the reasons why your attorney’s malpractice insurance policy, assuming he even has one, may not be very helpful at all to you. (Note: The list is not exhaustive.)
- You filed a claim when the policy was not in effect – Unlike other insurance coverage types, where claims are covered based on when an incident occurs, malpractice insurance only covers claims that are made during the term of the insurance policy. This means that even if the attorney had a policy in effect at the time he or she performed the negligent act, your malpractice claim will not be covered if the policy is no longer in effect at the time the claim is actually made.
- The policy does not cover the type of legal work performed by your attorney – Some policies will not cover every area of law in which an attorney practices. Practically every legal malpractice insurance policy, for example, excludes coverage for claims involving alleged securities violations. The exclusions for coverage will be specific to each policy.
- Your attorney committed a criminal act – Malpractice insurance was designed to cover an attorney’s mistakes…not his blatantly illegal acts. When your attorney fails to file a lawsuit on your behalf within the statute of limitations or fails to discover necessary information for use at a trial, a malpractice insurance policy may cover such mistakes. When, however, your attorney steals money from clients’ accounts, the policy will not cover such criminal acts.
The bottom line – your claim may not be covered by your attorney’s malpractice insurance, meaning that any damages that you may be entitled to would have to be recovered from the attorney himself. In other words, even if you have suffered damages at the hands of your attorney and even with a verdict in yourfavor, you may never actually be able to recover your damages. Without an insurance policy to make a payout or with an insurance policy that does not cover that particular claim, the attorney will be responsible for the judgment. While you may be able to reach some of the attorney’s assets and recoup a portion of your damages, it is unlikely that you would recover the entire amount of your damages. Furthermore, if the attorney’s assets are not in his name (for example, the attorney may have put assets in a spouse’s name) you would not be able to reach those assets.
Let Our Attorneys Examine Your Options
Legal malpractice cases can be very costly to prosecute. The availability of means of recovery should be considered as early as possible if you believe you have a potential claim for malpractice. It is important to contact an attorney who will openly and honestly discuss the merits of your claim. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig R. Zobel have worked diligently to protect the rights of their clients for almost three decades. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience in representing clients in legal malpractice cases. Call us today at (561) 277-1819 to get started with a free consultation.