I have settled my case, but I believe my lawyer was negligent. Can I do anything?

We sometimes receive calls from clients who have settled their claim, but feel that their lawyer was negligent and that the negligence affected the ability to pursue the case and/or resulted in a settlement for an incorrect or unfair amount. While it is possible to pursue a legal malpractice suit claiming that a settlement was too low or was required for an inadequate figure, such lawsuits are extremely difficult to pursue successfully. Part of the problem is that many jurors considering such a claim would have the initial (often correct) impression that the plaintiff simply changed his or her mind about settlement and is now suffering from “buyer’s remorse.”

Without written proof of the reason for the settlement, legal malpractice cases complaining about a settlement often become swearing matches between the former lawyer and the client – ones that are typically lost by the plaintiff. There are usually written materials that tend to prove that any settlement was voluntary and reasonable (i.e., the settlement agreement, release, mediation statements, closing statements, etc.). As with any other legal malpractice claim, you must be able to show not only that the attorney’s conduct was negligent, but that the negligence proximately caused you to receive a settlement amount that was different than what would have otherwise been received in the absence of the negligence. Again, while claims of this type are possible, they are extremely difficult to pursue unless there is some adequate documentation regarding both the negligence and the result that the negligence had on the settlement decision.