Can I Pursue an Attorney for Legal Malpractice if I Settled My Case?
Clients come to me all the time with questions regarding pursuing an attorney for malpractice if you have already settled. We often have clients contact us who have settled their underlying matter and then, through some circumstances that have changed, they now are no longer happy with that settlement. That creates a unique problem particularly here in Pennsylvania due to a doctrine called the Mohammed Doctrine. The Mohammed Doctrine bars a claimant from filing a legal malpractice case if they’ve settled the underlying claim and then become unsatisfied with that settlement. The reasoning for that is the courts want to encourage settlement. They know that it will be very difficult to do that and get attorneys to be willing to have the cases settled for their clients when they know that their client possesses the ability to turn around one week, two weeks, or one year later and say, “I don’t like that settlement. I’m going to sue you because I think you should have gotten me more.” In the defense perspective, I think I should have paid less.
These types of claims can be taken, but the circumstances are very unique. The Mohammed Doctrine is not applicable in instances where your settlement was induced through fraud. If your attorney lied to you or kept pertinent material from you in order to get you to settle the case, you can still file a claim here in Pennsylvania. Delaware, where we also practice, does not have a Mohammed Doctrine so we’re able to play a little bit more fast and loose with cases that have been settled prior to our involvement. Then again, that still does create a problem with respect to causation because if you agreed to the terms of the settlement, you can’t really say that it was the attorney’s malpractice that caused you some harm. It was the fact that you voluntarily agreed to settle the case. The overarching premise here of this question and the reason why it’s important is you need to contact an attorney who can help you navigate those waters to determine whether or not you have a case or whether or not you’re stuck with the settlement you agreed to.
If you have any questions about pursuing an attorney after a malpractice settlement, please contact one of our Legal Malpractice Lawyers in Media, PA for a free case evaluation.