Understanding Professional Negligence

What is professional negligence?When professionals breach their duty of care or fail to perform their responsibilities to the required standards of their profession, we refer to this poor conduct as professional negligence. This can result in damage or financial loss to the client who hired the professional to provide the expected standard of service in the profession.

If you are working as a professional who proffers expertise in a particular field, someone can file a claim of professional negligence against you. For instance, doctors, IT specialists, management consultants, surveyors, etc., are all professionals in varying industries.

As a professional or expert in your field, you must be careful in the carriage or exercise of your duties. Aim to deliver reasonable care and proper services that meet or exceed the accepted standards in your profession. If you fail to do so, you could be exposed to a claim of negligence against you. A successful claim can result in hefty damages or loss of your professional license.

For any claim to be successful, however, there must be evidence to prove that the professional carried out duties below the standards expected in their field. If you are a victim of this, know your rights to get fair compensation. At the same time, if you are a professional, carry out your duties according to your profession’s accepted standards to avoid negative consequences that can taint your reputation and damage your career.

What is Professional Negligence?

There is negligence when a professional fails to fulfill certain obligations or duties as agreed to with clients and in accordance with accepted standards within the profession. Even a claim of negligence against you can negatively impact your reputation.

Remember, your clients will likely not accuse you of negligence if you provide exemplary services for the job they hired you to do. But, even the most careful professional can be accused of negligence even when it is not intentional. That being said, claims of negligence can rise to gross negligence in severe cases.

Professional negligence always refers to people who provide professional services in a certain industry. For instance, the following professionals can face a negligent claim in court:

  • Medical services providers
  • Accounting professionals
  • Legal service practitioners
  • IT consultants
  • Surveyors
  • Engineers
  • Architects

Many other niche professions can provide services to clients. Professional negligence always occurs between the industry worker and a client. In this case, professional negligence pertains to how you handle or mishandle your duties to a particular client based on your established agreement or contract and the accepted standards of care within your profession. Whether the conduct is negligence or gross negligence hinges on several factors, such as:

  • The nature of the negligent act
  • The industry of the professional
  • Whether the professional could have taken a different course of action
  • Cost of trying a different approach
  • Whether the professional had less harmful or safer options to take
  • How egregious the conduct was in relation to the professional standard
  • How serious the damage was to the client

To illustrate, a doctor committing medical malpractice that results in a patient death may be accused of gross negligence compared to a land surveyor who makes an incorrect annotation on a land report that results in slightly skewed property values.

For any negligence claim to be successful, there must be evidence presented that the quality of care given by the professional is below the accepted standard within the industry. The service rendered must also have resulted in a negative consequence to the client such as personal injury, damage to property, or financial loss to the customer.

Examples of Professional Negligence

Since there are many professionals and industries, you will find different examples and standards of professional negligence. The following examples are the most common forms of professional negligence.

Medical Malpractice

One of the most well-known professional negligence claims falls under medical malpractice. This usually affects doctors, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or other specialists who are in charge of overseeing the care of a patient. Neglect can include one or more of the following:

  • Failure to diagnose or missed diagnosis
  • Administering wrong medication resulting in injury or death
  • Faulty surgical procedures resulting in injury or death
  • Recommending and doing unnecessary surgery
  • Misreading a laboratory result like bloodwork or imaging scans
  • Poor follow-up or aftercare of a patient
  • Premature discharge
  • Not taking the right patient history
  • Violation of HIPPA or patient’s privacy rights

Architectural and Engineering Errors

Architects and engineers are known for designing and building homes and commercial properties. A negligence act can have huge financial implications for the owners of the property. For instance, faulty design can affect the structure and foundation of a home, resulting in potential injury should something cave or collapse. Common negligent practices in this field are the following:

  • Lack of compliance between plans and the building code
  • Extensions to a house that cannot be supported by the foundation
  • Demolition and rebuilding of a home with wrong plans

Accounting Mistakes

Individuals and organizations hire accounting professionals to oversee their books and ascertain their financial health remains in check. However, when an accountant does a haphazard job and gives poor advice, it can result in the client:

  • Suffering large tax bills
  • Incurring penalties
  • Getting fined and audited by the tax bureau
  • Missing out on tax reliefs
  • Poor financial projections
  • Incorrect data on which to base financial decisions

IT or Information Technology Mistakes

IT professionals are hired by organizations to secure their IT infrastructure and network. Substandard work on something of this magnitude, however, can result in the following:

  • Poorly secured data
  • Malware
  • Cyberattacks
  • Breaches
  • Hacking
  • Phishing

Companies can lose millions of dollars due to poor IT infrastructure. You can sue those who fail in their duties for breach of contract and professional negligence.

Legal Missteps

Lawyers can also be sued for dereliction of duty or negligence when their clients find just cause for their claims. When an individual passes the bar, this does not mean they are immune to a lawsuit. Examples of these negligent legal claims may be due to the following:

  • Incorrect legal advice
  • Violation of client privacy
  • Failure to meet filing deadlines resulting in a client’s foregoing of a claim

Conveyancer Error

A conveyancer or surveyor can miss a critical piece of information when purchasing a property. As a result, the property value is significantly affected. Someone can end up paying more or underpaying, which equates to lost money.

This is not even an exhaustive list of examples, but as you can see, there are many ways where a professional can neglect their duties. This may be intentional or unintentional, but the results are the same. The victim who paid professional fees for industry-accepted results can receive compensation for their losses.

If you are a client who has experienced professional negligence, speak to a reputable attorney so you can fight for fair compensation. You and your lawyer will need to gather evidence to prove that your professional provider committed a breach of duty, causing you harm. Only a legal professional can guide you in proving your claim, assist you in building a solid case, and help you receive a monetary award for the damages you have suffered.

What is the Duty of Care?

Professional negligence happens when a professional who commits to serving a client breaches their duty of care to that client. In this instance, the duty of care refers to the common standards anyone can expect from a service professional in a specific industry.

Remember, every industry will have its own set of standards, guidelines, and rules. Professionals who practice under this specialty must abide by these regulations. Usually, they do the following:

  • Take licensing requirements
  • Comply with certification exams for accreditation
  • Abide by an oversight board or committee
  • Swear an oath to carry out duties that ascribe to their standards

To illustrate, the duty of care for doctors would be to provide the industry-accepted standard of patient care, utilizing best practices and treatments available. In cases where money is a concern, doctors would still inform the patient about the cost of treatment or medication and help that individual find the best care.

Your job as a service professional is to protect your client from possible harmful outcomes by doing your best to provide the standard of care. It can be difficult, however, to recognize professional negligence, especially when not intentional.

Usually, clients do not have the knowledge or skills to identify that the service provider is negligent. For the mentioned reasons, these matters often slip under the radar. More often than not, clients are not even aware that something has gone awry.

That is why it is important to know whether you have a professional negligence claim. Check out these signs that indicate you have a good fighting chance to win your lawsuit:

Conflicting advice

If the professional you hire is always doling out unsure advice and keeps on changing decisions, this inconsistency is alarming. You should be cautious because your service provider may not know much and does not have the required expertise to assist you.

However, do note that changes to professional advice are not a surefire sign of professional negligence. For instance, brokers may advise you to pull out of investments based on the flow of the stock market. The key is to analyze the situation, watch out for inconsistencies, and be wary of someone who is not confident in making critical decisions.

Poor Communication

Are you frustrated because the person you hire does not provide reasonably swift replies? If the responses are always slow, it may result in delays that can eventually lead to lost opportunities. For example, if your lawyer delays action in pursuing your claim, the statute of limitation may have already expired, rendering your efforts useless.

Moreover, if you can’t ever get a hold of the professional who you are considering hiring for services, consider this a red flag that you ought to avoid this person. If you are already a client, this could be a warning sign that the professional is not taking your matter as seriously as they should. Instead of acting, the professional is avoiding you or probably making flimsy excuses.

Condition is Worsening

You hire an expert for a good reason. If your situation is not improving, that may be a sign that something is amiss. There should be concrete, positive results for the services you paid for.

Does Insurance Protect Against Professional Negligence Claims?

Negligence claims are a common problem in the professional sector. For this reason, insurance is quite common and affordable. Professional Liability Insurance, which is also dubbed as Errors and Omissions Insurance, is the most popular protection coverage that service providers pay a premium for. It helps them address any claims of professional negligence.

Additionally, businesses like a pest control service or a tree pruning company can also seek Indemnity Insurance. This is similar because it offers protection, but it serves a slightly different purpose. This form of insurance addresses a shorter time frame.

Moreover, it is often obtained to provide a supplemental role to a bigger liability policy coverage. As a professional, it would be best to secure Professional Liability Insurance and other types of coverage. Insurance companies offer many different coverages and plans, which an agent can craft to suit your needs and address issues that commonly crop up in the industry you serve.

But remember, do your best to fulfill your professional duties and obligations. After all, your clients hired you with their hard-earned money. Thus, you must exercise reasonable care in providing services to meet client satisfaction. Doing this will allow you to mitigate a claim of professional negligence.

Call our Boston attorneys if you've been the victim of professional negligence

As a client, if you notice that the professional you hired does not adhere to the standard of care known in their industry, consider this as a major red flag. If you suffered losses, incurred physical injuries, or sustained damages to a property because of professional negligence, do not hesitate to fight for your rights and file a claim. Contact our team of lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck for assistance. Take advantage of our free case evaluation.