Written by attorney William J. Driscoll

Legal Malpractice 101 (Kentucky)

If a lawyer mishandled your case and caused you substantial financial harm, you may have a claim for legal malpractice.

In Kentucky, there is a one year statute of limitations to pursue a malpractice claim against a lawyer. That is, you must file your lawsuit against the lawyer within one year of the negligent act, or your right to recover is lost.

The discovery rule applies to attorney malpractice cases. This means that the one year deadline to file suit does not run until you know, or should have known, about your attorney’s negligence. The discovery rule often arises when a lawyer screws up the drafting of a Will or a Deed to real estate, when the mistake is not apparent until many years later.

The continuous representation rule also is recognized in Kentucky. This means that the one year deadline to file suit does not run as long as the attorney is still representing you in the same legal matter. In other words, if it appears that your lawyer made a serious mistake at trial, or that your case was unexpectedly dismissed, it is not necessary to assert a malpractice claim against your lawyer until all appeals are exhausted.

Most commonly, lawyer malpractice claims involve missed deadlines to file suit or to file an appeal. Sometimes lawyers fail to calendar a deadline, miscalculate the deadline, or apply the wrong statute of limitations. Legal negligence is also seen when a lawyer practices in a complex area that he is not familiar with, such as drafting a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) in a divorce case, or handling an ERISA appeal for the first time.

To prevail in a legal malpractice claim in Kentucky, you must prove:

  1. that an attorney-client relationship existed,
  2. that the attorney deviated from the applicable standard of care (what a reasonable and competent attorney would do under the same circumstances), and
  3. that such deviation caused you financial harm.

If the attorney’s misconduct was more than just a simple mistake (i.e. he stole a client’s settlement), it may be possible to claim punitive damages and/or compensation for mental anguish.

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