Applying to the Fund
If you have paid fees to your attorney and no useful services were provided or if the attorney misappropriated your money or property, you may file a claim with the Fund.
If the claim is made on behalf of an estate or trust, the proper party to file is the personal representative of the estate or trustee of the trust.
Prerequisite to Filing a Claim
Unless the attorney has already been disbarred, had their license revoked or is deceased, you must file a grievance against the attorney. Call The Florida Bar’s Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) at 866-352-0707 or visit the ACAP webpage for information on filing a grievance.
The loss must have occurred during an attorney/client relationship or while the attorney was providing services customary to the practice of law. Fees paid to an attorney for legal services may be reimbursed only after it is determined that no useful services were provided.
Losses Not Considered
The Clients’ Security Fund does not reimburse for losses as a result of negligence or malpractice on the part of the attorney. Business or investment relationships between you and the attorney are also not covered. The reimbursable loss is limited to the actual amount taken by the attorney and does not include damages, expenses incurred, lost interest, etc. caused by the attorney taking or mishandling your funds or property.
Losses as a result of family relationships, partnerships or other associations may be denied. Normally, claims by governmental agencies, publicly owned corporations, institutional lenders, insurance companies and subrogees are not considered.
Maximum Recovery Amounts
If you paid your attorney fees and they did not provide any useful services, you may be reimbursed the amount of the fees you paid, up to $5,000. Approved fee claims are paid throughout the year as they are approved.
If your attorney misappropriated your money, you may recover the amount of misappropriated funds, up to $250,000. These type of claim payments are held until the end of each fiscal year. If the funds exist to pay all approved claims in full, you will receive payment for 100% of your approved loss amount. If there are not enough funds available to pay all approved claims in full, payments are made on a pro rata (partial) basis.
Approved misappropriation payments are made once per year and typically mailed by September 30.
Time Frame to File a Claim
To be considered timely, you must file your claim within three years of the date of the final disciplinary action or within three years of the date of death. Claims filed more than three years after the date of the final disciplinary action, or the date of death will not be considered. If you are not sure of the date you can contact our ACAP Department at 866-352-0707.
Processing Time of a Claim
The average processing time of a claim is one year. Your claim may take longer. There are several steps to the process and the Bar wants to make sure all claims are treated fairly and thoroughly investigated.
An application to the Clients’ Security Fund is reviewed by the staff of The Florida Bar. If your claim is missing information, you will be contacted and asked to provide the information. If all required information is included in the claim, your attorney will be sent a letter and given an opportunity to respond. The claim will then be assigned to a member of the Clients’ Security Fund Committee for investigation. You may be contacted for more information. Responding promptly will help move your claim through the process. Once the investigation is complete, your claim is reported to the Clients’ Security Fund Committee. The recommendation from the committee to pay or to deny a claim then goes to a member of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar called a Designated Reviewer (DR). The DR’s recommendation then goes to the full Board who makes the final decision on whether a claim will be approved or denied. After a final decision has been made, a letter will be mailed to inform the claimant of the outcome of the claim.
Exhausting Other Remedies
If it is apparent there may be another way to recover your money or property, you could be required to pursue the alternate source before the Clients’ Security Fund considers your claim. Such sources might be bonding or insurance companies, banks or other entities that have honored a forged check or draft, the accused attorney or the attorney’s partners, or the attorney’s estate in the case of a deceased attorney. You may also be required to file a criminal complaint against the attorney. The Clients’ Security Fund staff will let you know whether you need to exhaust other remedies for your claim to be approved.