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No one knows for sure how many California lawyers lack malpractice insurance, but estimates run as high as 20 percent. That means almost 31,000 of the state’s nearly 153,000 active lawyers have no way of compensating clients if they mess up a case. Tough luck for the consumer. But that could change under a proposal now being circulated by the State Bar to enact rules requiring attorneys to tell new clients if they don’t have malpractice insurance.

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The same problem exists in Washington. While liability insurance is mandatory for drivers, attorneys do not have to carrier errors and omissions (liability) policies of insurance. The Washington Bar Association should require all practicing attorneys to (1) carry malpractice insurance and (2) disclose to their clients how much coverage they have. I cannot begin to tell you the number of malpractice claims we have initiated where the negligent attorney has no liablity coverage and no assets to satisfy the judgments against them. And, as you would probably guess, most of them go bankrupt and their clients are left holding the bag.

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