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Failure to Properly Investigate and Perform Discovery

Most people who have been wronged, injured or harmed in some way hire a lawyer. A lawyer is supposed to know how to handle matters that the average person simply does not have the knowledge or experience to effectively handle for themselves.

Every day, clients trust their attorney to know what facts and evidence will be helpful or harmful to their case, to have a thorough understanding of the laws that are applicable to their situation and to follow proper protocol. Since most people do not know or understand the law or procedures involved in trying a case, they are at the mercy of what their attorney tells them.

Obtaining Facts From Clients

Investigation and discovery plays an important role in an attorney’s ability to prepare trial. There are many ways to investigate a claim. Initially, attorneys rely on their clients to provide facts. If the attorneys don’t properly question their clients, there is a potential for legal malpractice.

Interviewing Witnesses

A second option, but not a requirement, for many lawyers is to interview witnesses. The identity of these witnesses and the need to question them varies significantly from case to case. How an attorney handles potential witnesses outside of the rules of court may or may not be a basis for a professional negligence claim.

Understanding the Rules of Procedure

In addition to investigation, a primary option available to most attorneys in courts of record is what is termed “discovery.” Discovery procedures are outlined in complete rules of civil procedure in each jurisdiction. Attorneys are generally required to know and understand the rules of procedure in the jurisdictions in which they practice. Local rules also may come into play.

Utilizing Discovery Devices

The purpose of these discovery procedures is to “discover” what the other side knows about the case so that there will be no surprises when the parties come to court. Discovery includes such things written questions called “interrogatories,” requests for production of documents and things, and the taking of sworn statements of witnesses and parties out of court (commonly called depositions). Failure to properly use these devices can potentially expose an attorney a professional negligence claim.

Just because an attorney fails to use a certain form of discovery does not automatically mean they have committed legal malpractice. Attorneys may sometimes qualify for a “judgment call” defense if they elect not to use a certain form of discovery because of the expense or for strategic reasons.

Because investigation and discovery can play an important part in the preparation for trial and the actual trial itself, failure to properly investigate and perform discovery can lead to potential legal malpractice exposure. Each case turns on its own facts, so it is important that if you have a question about whether your attorney properly investigated and performed discovery in your case, contact an attorney with experience in legal malpractice to evaluate your situation.

Contact a Tennessee Legal Malpractice Attorney

Attorneys Ed Graves and David Day have been helping people wronged by their attorney recover monetary damages for over 20 years. In that time, we have been able to obtain compensation for many of our clients victimized by malpracticing lawyers. If you suspect that you have been the victim of legal malpractice in Tennessee, don’t delay. You have only a certain amount of time in which to hold a negligent attorney accountable for his or her actions.

Contact one of our experienced legal malpractice lawyers to learn more about your rights by calling (865) 599-1974.

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