I was involved in a car accident which left me with serious spinal injuries. My car was t-boned by a rental vehicle which ran a red light (I had the right of way). The driver fled the scene of the accident. The individual and her sister, both authorized drivers of the rental vehicle were contacted several times by a detective. After two weeks of investigation, the detective discovered inconsistencies with the sisters' "recollection" of the rental's whereabouts. Initially, they proclaimed that the driver was a boyfriend, then later maintained that the car was stolen and that they did not know about the accident, nor the driver. They never filed a police report, and the primary lessee plead innocent, but was found guilty in municipal court for failure to report an accident.
Your facts certainly suggest a failure on the part of your prior attorney to fully investigate and pursue the issue of primary liability, which may form the basis of a legal malpractice claim. However, I would also be interested in learning more about when the accident occurred and more about your injuries.
No one on this board is going to tell you "yes, that is legal malpractice."
What we can tell you is that we are sorry about your situation and that you need to sit down with your attorney to understand his or her thought process in his representation of you. You do not share enough pertinent details for me to personally understand the connection to a UM claim in this case.
It sounds as if there is valuable information about the vehicle and owner. We hire our own investigators in cases like yours. At the same time we pursue UM in case the other doesn't work. These types of cases require a very experienced personal injury attorney. You need to select one as soon as possible. Also be aware that there is a two year statute of limitation. You need to file a complaint before two years from the date of accident.
Unless your case is over, and time deadlines have passed, you are wasting energy and time trying to figure out whether your prior attorney committed malpractice, when your focus and energy should be on immediately contacting a new attorney to take over the case.
I have been involved in numerous cases where i have had to "correct" the decisions of prior attorneys on a case. In almost all of them, they were able to be fixed. In fact, sometimes, I have had to correct my own mistakes - no one is infallible - but as far as I know, I was always able to correct them. As long as you are not out of time, this and most issues are fixable. I tell attorneys that used to work for me, who would panic over a decision - "relax, almost everything is fixable".
Also, just as a side note - there are certain requirements that must be shown before you are entitled to UM coverage - and one is to have made some effort to identify the hit and run driver, so as to give the UM carrier some ability to go after the uninsured driver for any money they have paid to you in settlement. Second, the UM carrier (who have all the resources they need) has just as much incentive as you to find the real driver - since if they do, then they don't have to pay you anything. And if you have a 100,000 UM policy - tha would be a 100,000 reasons to find the true driver. So the fact that the UM carrier also did not solve the mystery of the missing driver suggests it is not as clear as one might think.
Regardless, as has been mentioned, you can pursue UM benefits and a claim against who you think the real driver is - at the exact same time in the exact same lawsuit. Don't wait.
You need to sit down with an attorney and evaluate the issue of whether or not the "primary lessee's" insurance coverage should be pursued. You may still have time to pursue this "new information". Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations in cases like this. Your attorney may have missed this "new information", but you may still be able to recover through a claim against that recently discovered. I would need much more detail to give you any further opinion in this matter. Contact a local attorney experienced in handling personal injury claims. Good luck.
You provided more information in one of the comments that you wrote to one of the attorneys' answers. You stated: "my previous attorney neglected to see the merits in bringing a claim against lessee (he, unbeknownst to me, signed a stipulation of dismissal for this defendant because he lost interest in the case and in pursuing said defendant). For over one year, this attorney failed to answer to the lessee/defendant's attorney's request for my depositions (no depositions of the lessee were ever taken)! The defendant's attorney filed to have a judge dismiss the case several times based on my attorney's negligence and failure to respond. My attorney was not paying attention to my case which I trusted him with and had total faith in. Unfortunately, he neglected to thoroughly conduct an investigation on the events leading up to the accident nor was he aware that the defendant's policy limits was significantly more than what I could get from my own policy's UM claim (he confirmed this with me when I inquired)."
With that additional information you gave a much better picture of why you want to pursue your lawyer - rather than the negligent driver. Unfortunately even with the additional facts, there are still a lot of unknowns/unstated facts for an attorney to give you an opinion. A claim for legal malpractice needs to have (1) a breach of the standard of care (on the part of the lawyer), (2) damages arising from such breach and (3) a source of funds to pay the recovery - just like most other claims. You are likely to be helped in evaluating those issues with the assistance of a capable and experienced personal injury attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction (probably the state where you hired your lawyer).
Get free answers from experienced attorneys.
26,541 answers this week
2,855 attorneys answering
Don't speak legalese? We define thousands of terms in plain English.Browse our legal dictionary