What happens if my lawyer makes a mistake?

A substantial mistake or error made by your lawyer is everyone’s worst nightmare.

For you, it means that your legal problem has not been resolved or, if it has been resolved, it has not been properly resolved.

For your lawyer, it means that his or her reputation is tarnished and he or she may have complaints filed against him or her with the Law Society of Upper Canada (the governing body of lawyers in Ontario).

According to LawPRO, the liability insurance provider for all lawyers in Ontario, the most common forms of mistakes made by lawyers are:

  • Failure to follow clients’ instructions;
  • Failure to obtain clients’ consent or to inform the client;
  • Failure to communicate whether the lawyer or client is responsible to do something;
  • Missing a deadline or limitation period;
  • Inadequate investigation or discovery of facts; and
  • Failure to know the law

Surprisingly, only 13.8% of claims over the ten-year period between 1997 and 2007 are due to failure to know the law.  More than one-third of all claims are due to poor communication between lawyer and client.

If you believe your lawyer or paralegal was negligent, you may want to get legal advice from another lawyer about your options.  You may be able to recover your losses from two sources:

  • LawPRO, and
  • the Compensation Fund of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

If your lawyer makes a mistake or error on your file, he or she is required to report it to LawPRO.  LawPRO will then defend the lawyer and pay out any damages that result from the claim as long as the claim does not arise from any dishonest, fraudulent, criminal or malicious act on the part of your lawyer.

If your lawyer has been dishonest, fraudulent or criminal to you through their acts, you will not be able to recover your losses from LawPRO.  Instead, in Ontario, you will need to approach the Law Society of Upper Canada.  The Law Society has a Compensation Fund specifically for the purpose of compensating members of the public who have been wronged by one of its members through dishonesty, fraud or crime.  If you believe that your loss is due to your lawyer’s dishonesty, fraud or crime, contact the Law Society Compensation Fund.

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