Accountant / Lawyer / Professional Services Disputes / Professional Fraud
Accountants owe duties to their clients just like other professionals. Most accountants do their jobs well and have satisfied clients. Occasionally an accountant is not doing their job well and hurting their clients. This usually arises in poor tax advice or poor audit work. The problem for clients of accountants is that we rely upon their advice in terms of what deductions to take, what amount is owed to the Government, what forms need to be filed, and how best to comply with our tax obligations. If an accountant is not performing their duties correctly, they can commit malpractice. Generally, the elements of an accounting malpractice claim, the elements that a plaintiff must prove, are (1) the accountant owed the client a duty, (2) the accountant breached the duty, (3) the breach caused the client actual damages or injury, and (4) there were actual damages or injury. See Ling v. BDA&K Bus. Servs., 261 S.W.3d 341, 347 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008). So for instance, if you hire an accountant to help prepare your tax returns, and the accountant provides bad tax advice that causes you to incur tax penalties, that accountant can potentially be liable for accounting malpractice. Much depends on what is customary in the accounting industry in terms of whether that advice falls outside what a normal, reasonably prudent accountant would have done. The same is true in the audit context. If you hire an accountant to provide audit services for a company, for instance, and that audit is performed badly, causing you or your company damages from investors, bankers, or others, that accountant could also be liable for accounting malpractice. If you suspect that accounting malpractice may be involved in your situation, please give me a call.
Lawyers owe their clients some of the highest duties under the law. Like accountants, most lawyers do their jobs well and have satisfied clients. But occasionally lawyers do not. When they do not, they sometimes commit malpractice. Generally, the elements of a legal malpractice claim, the elements that a plaintiff must prove, are (1) the lawyer owed the client a duty, (2) the lawyer breached that duty, (3) the breach proximately caused the client’s injury, and (4) the client suffered damages. See Akin Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP v. Nat’l Dev. & Research Corp., 299 S.W.3d 106, 112 (Tex. 2009). Some of the typical areas where we see legal malpractice are when a lawyer misses a deadline, such as not filing a case or a document on time. For instance, if you hire a lawyer, and the lawyer does not act timely in filing something, your case can be dismissed for statutes of limitation problems. Another area where we see legal malpractice is where a lawyer improperly takes client funds. For instance, if a lawyer is holding your money in trust, and instead of holding that money for your case or for your benefit, the lawyer takes the money and spends it on other things. Another area that we sometimes see is when a lawyer is not competent to handle a particular type of case. Sometimes lawyers take cases that they should not take because they are not as familiar with that area of the law, and their lack of familiarity causes them to handle a case poorly. Other areas where legal malpractice can arise is in poor transactional work. If you hire a lawyer to handle a contract, for instance, and the lawyer does not prepare the contract properly causing you to suffer a problem down the road, that can sometimes be malpractice. Lawyers are imperfect people; the law does not demand perfection. But there are situations where a lawyer performs so poorly that they commit malpractice. And if you suspect that you have been harmed by a lawyer’s malpractice, I am a fiduciary fraud attorney with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve the best result.
There are other types of malpractice claims against professionals, including medical malpractice, veterinary malpractice, funeral director malpractice, and architect and engineer malpractice. If you have been victimized by a professional, I am a fiduciary litigation lawyer with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve the best result.