Professional negligence, simply put, is professional causing harm or danger to a customer or client as a result of not properly attending to their responsibilities as a professional. This is often legally called a “breach of duty.”
When a professional fails to offer competent, skilled, and diligent services to customers and clients to the detriment of customers or clients, professional negligence may have occurred. Sometimes this is referred to as malpractice.
Lawmanaging has identified several elements that contribute to professional negligence. These elements are necessary in order for a judge to side with a plaintiff and find someone professionally negligent:
- The defendant was obligated to provide a service to the plaintiff.
- The defendant acted in a way that failed to comply with professional standards, codes or norms.
- The defendant acted in a way that was foreseeably harmful to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff suffered damages.
- The defendant’s failure to perform caused the plaintiff’s damages.
Keep in mind that there are local laws and measures that will come into play here.
If there are no damages, then there is no need for compensation. Damages can look very different depending on the nature of the professional relationship. For instance, if an accountant causes a client to lose business or money, compensation may be in order. Or if a doctor’s negligence causes a patient to be unable to work, loss of wages compensation may be necessary. Damages have to be tangible and measurable in order for action to be taken.
If you are part of a profession that is at high risk for encountering professional negligence claims, there are some things you can do to help mitigate your risks. Here are some suggestions:
- Sign a contract with your clients that has been reviewed by an attorney.
- Keep the lines of communication open with your clients, making sure that their expectations are realistic and that they are aware of any risks they may be taking on.
- Keep detailed records of client interactions and recommendations.
- Stay in your lane, and refer clients elsewhere when their needs are not within your professional scope or if you feel uncomfortable giving guidance in any particular area.
- Use professional development opportunities to deepen your knowledge and stay up to date on professional standards.
If you find that you are in a position where professional negligence could be a real threat to your professional persona or livelihood, there are some things that you can do to help safeguard yourself and your business. There are some insurance providers who offer professional liability insurance or errors and omissions insurance. There are some professions like doctors, lawyers, and accountants that require licensed professionals to carry this type of insurance. It really can make the difference between having to close your business and being able to carry on.