A legal malpractice statute of limitations is a law that establishes a specific amount of time in which a person may file a lawsuit against a lawyer for malpractice. A court will dismiss a legal malpractice lawsuit if the time expires on the statute, but this time limit will vary in each jurisdiction. Although the statute of limitations establishes the time to file a lawsuit, it can be difficult to determining when the clock on the statute begins. Typically, the time will start when the client learns of the malpractice or when he or she should have learned about it.
Jurisdictions typically each have a unique legal malpractice statute of limitations. Some jurisdictions may establish a one-year period, while others have a four-year period to file a case. The courts in each jurisdiction also will interpret and apply the language of its statute differently. There is not a definite or easy response for determining when the time limit countdown begins, which makes it necessary for a person who suspects legal malpractice to confer with an experienced legal malpractice attorney to assess the case properly.
In addition to a jurisdiction’s specific statute of limitations, another factor that will affect when the clock begins is tolling. Tolling allows the court to stop the countdown on a statute of limitations under certain circumstances. This will affect how long a person has to file a legal malpractice suit. For instance, if a lawyer hides certain facts from a client that prevent the client from learning of the malpractice, then the court will toll the statute. Other situations, such as the lawyer being out of state, will also how long the victim has to file a lawsuit.
Each case will have unique circumstances, which makes it difficult to determine when the legal malpractice statute of limitations begins. This makes it important for people who think that they've been subject to malpractice to consult with an experienced legal malpractice attorney. This lawyer also will help to determine whether a client has a valid case, because legal malpractice does not necessarily arise from a lawyer losing a case. He or she must analyze various factors to calculate properly whether the statute of limitations will prevent a case from proceeding. A lawyer experienced with legal malpractice will know how to protect a client’s case and may initiate a legal action immediately to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring.