When Does the Statute of Limitations for Legal Malpractice Begin to Run in California?

Full Question:

I have 2 questions about 2 statute of limitations which are stemming from one case, a personal injury case. I was a plaintiff In a personal injury trial, my attorney mishandled my case; I didn't know about certain important issues regarding my attorney until months after the trial has ended. For example: He didn't submit important expenses to the jury, he didn't object to several motions filed by the defense, actually he didn't object to anything, most importantly, he concealed a judgment from me (Full of false information) which has been filed by the defense, he promised in an email to contact me once the judgment is filed and signed, well, he didn't, I learned about the filing of the judgment 2 months after the trial has ended when it became available in the court; only then I discovered how my attorney has screwed up everything, I had no knowledge about what my attorney did before that date. Although the trial has ended several months ago (less than a year) my attorney still refuses to return my file and I have been told that this means that he is still My Attorney On Record. He stopped communicating with me, I have contacted him tens of times by emails, phone calls and voice mails, when his secretary answers she promises he'd return my call, but he never did. I filed a complaint with the California State Bar and he was issued a letter of warning. I understand The statute of limitation shall run from the time the cause of action is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence. My question is: In my case I discovered that my attorney had received, reviewed and approved a judgment without my knowledge or authorization 2 months after the trial has ended, that's in addition to the discovery which occurred 4 months after the trial has ended, that he didn't submit highly important expenses to the jury, so the statute of limitation should start running according to the time of those discoveries. Am I right on this? I also understand the statute of limitations won't start running until the lawyer/client relationship on the same case ends. The other important issue is: In that same case the defendant was found guilty, the defendant's negligence was found to be 'A substantial factor for causing my injury'. Now the trial has ended and I want to sue the defendant personally, I know he has assets, what is the statute of limitation in California for this particular issue (suing a defendant after been found guilty)?
01/11/2011   |   Category: Civil Actions ยป Limitations   |   State: California   |   #23987

Answer:

In California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years. In a legal malpractice claim, the statute of limitations is tolled during a period when the attorney continues to represent the plaintiff regarding the specific subject matter in which the alleged wrongful act or omission occurred. Merely failing to return a client's file does not mean the attorney is continuing representation. Please see the link to the case below, where the court defines continued representation as assisting the client in an unsettled matter related to the case. We are prohibited from giving a legal opinion, as this service provides information of a general legal nature. We suggest you consult a local attorney who can review all the facts and documents involved.

Please see the following CA statute to determine applicability:

340.6. (a) An action against an attorney for a wrongful act or
omission, other than for actual fraud, arising in the performance of
professional services shall be commenced within one year after the
plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence
should have discovered, the facts constituting the wrongful act or
omission, or four years from the date of the wrongful act or
omission, whichever occurs first. If the plaintiff is required to
establish his or her factual innocence for an underlying criminal
charge as an element of his or her claim, the action shall be
commenced within two years after the plaintiff achieves
postconviction exoneration in the form of a final judicial
disposition of the criminal case. Except for a claim for which the
plaintiff is required to establish his or her factual innocence, in
no event shall the time for commencement of legal action exceed four
years except that the period shall be tolled during the time that any
of the following exist:
(1) The plaintiff has not sustained actual injury.
(2) The attorney continues to represent the plaintiff regarding
the specific subject matter in which the alleged wrongful act or
omission occurred.
(3) The attorney willfully conceals the facts constituting the
wrongful act or omission when such facts are known to the attorney,
except that this subdivision shall toll only the four-year
limitation.
(4) The plaintiff is under a legal or physical disability which
restricts the plaintiff's ability to commence legal action.
(b) In an action based upon an instrument in writing, the
effective date of which depends upon some act or event of the future,
the period of limitations provided for by this section shall
commence to run upon the occurrence of that act or event.

For further discussion, please see:

http://www.lawlink.com/research/CaseLevel3/59205
http://www.blumberglaw.com/article-statute-of-limitations.htm