Malpractice claims studied

A recent survey produced by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Lawyers Professional Liability contains some interesting statistics. First, this report focuses on malpractice claims. The results here are not necessarily consistent with Disciplinary Boards’ results. More clients tend to complain to the State Bars than they file malpractice claims in court. The information, nevertheless, is instructive.

Large firm lawyers are increasingly the subject of claims. I suspect that a large firm lawyer’s mistake has more serious consequences and the large firm client has more money to express his/her displeasure in a court rather than just with a Bar disciplinary board. However, that is merely my supposition, not supported by data.

Personal injury (30% of all claims) and real estate (16%) practice areas remain the hotbed of complaints.

Administrative errors, such as failure to calendar properly, increased 12% and now comprise 28% of all claims. In other words, poor management causes almost a third of the complaints in malpractice actions!. Poor management causes two-thirds of the complaints before State Bar Disciplinary Boards — simple things like failure to return phone calls (#1 complaint of all!).

Sole and small firm (2-5) lawyers are involved in 66% of malpractice claims. In a different study, the ABA states that 63% of all lawyers are at firms in this category (1-5 lawyers)

59% of all claims were closed without any expense. But, the amount it takes to settle a claim is increasingly larger.

Prevention is essential. Awareness is essential.


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