For Robyn*, it was one spirit-crushing event after another: first, a traffic accident left her with tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt and physical scars she would carry with her for the rest of her life; then, soon after, the passing of her husband.
Because the motorist who struck her car was uninsured, Robyn needed strong representation from a civil litigation attorney. What she got from her first attorney was something considerably less.
Injured by an uninsured motorist
When a policeman observed a car running a stop sign, he pulled the car over and issued a citation. The driver explained that the traffic violation was out of his control, and that his brakes were failing. The driver was then instructed by the officer to drive directly home. If only he had.
Hours later, the driver’s faulty brakes allowed his car to careen, uncontrolled, into the car Robyn was driving. She suffered multiple neck injuries and would be scarred for life as a result. She would also start to pile up significant medical bills, with no way to pay them. To add insult to injury, she discovered that the driver was uninsured.
And just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse for Robyn—her husband passed away.
A victim of civil litigation neglect
Overwhelmed, Robyn hired a local attorney to help her manage the aftereffects of the accident. The attorney was a former county commissioner who, unknown to Robyn at the time, was under investigation for embezzlement. He would later be acquitted, but his involvement in the investigation and the subsequent trial were contributing factors to his neglect of Robyn’s case. We also discovered that he was battling alcoholism.
Whenever she inquired about her case, the attorney told her that everything was proceeding normally. After more than two years, Robyn grew tired of the delays (while her medical bills were mounting). She approached us to look at her case.
When we looked at the court docket, we found that almost nothing that should have been done on Robyn’s behalf had in fact been acted upon. Her attorney had repeatedly failed to file proper documentation, and deadlines had been missed without her having been notified—a lapse on the part of her attorney that was critically detrimental to her position. Robyn then fired her attorney and hired us to salvage her case.
Starting over to remedy legal malpractice
Her case had been so mishandled that we had no choice but to dismiss it entirely and start over. It took nearly a month to recover her file from her previous attorney, and we unearthed the fact that Robyn had been eligible for substantial uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage from her own insurance provider.
Though the deadline had passed for filing a claim with her provider, we pushed for filing anyway, alerting the insurer that her previous attorney had failed to provide her with proper notice of the filing deadlines. Persistence paid off (as it frequently does, especially when you are pushing for the right thing to be done). We also sued the other attorney for malpractice and won a settlement that, combined with the insurance settlement Robyn received, allowed her to pay her medical bills.
Looking out for personal injury victims
Our practice exists, in large part, due to the prevalence of neglect, which too often results in someone’s injury. It can come in many forms, from an automobile’s faulty braking system to somebody ignoring a police officer’s instructions—both of which contributed to Robyn’s injuries.
But neglect can also include harming somebody by failing to do what’s best—and what’s right. Robyn’s suffering started with the neglect of an uninsured motorist. Her suffering was prolonged by the neglect of an attorney who failed to provide her with the most basic representation. And, finally, her suffering continued because of an insurance company that promised coverage and then tried to deny it by hiding behind technicalities like filing deadlines.
The attorney and insurance provider should have had Robyn’s best interests as their first priority, yet it took legal pressure to compel them to do the right thing for a victim who deserved better.
We take legal malpractice very seriously. Attorneys should be held accountable for their actions and decisions, especially when they veer from the standards that are the foundation of our profession. By pursuing those who fail to uphold those standards, we protect not only our profession, but also our community as a whole.
If you suffer a personal injury that calls for civil litigation, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced Ohio trial lawyers at Cooper & Elliott for legal assistance. We’re here to help.
*Names in this article have been changed to protect our client’s privacy.
The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.