Whether attending at a bank, receiving medical treatment, or obtaining legal advice, the public places significant trust in others in their day-to-day lives to avoid harm. So, what happens when one of these people causes them harm – even if unintentional?
This is where the law of negligence comes in. However, the standards of negligence may vary depending on the type of actor. For instance, there are substantial differences between professional negligence and “ordinary negligence.” This blog post will provide an overview of and distinguish between ordinary and professional negligence and will summarize the consequences of professional negligence.
What is Negligence?
At its most basic, negligence arises when a person fails to exercise the level of care towards another person that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances. Negligence can result from someone’s conduct or action, or when they fail to do something that a reasonable person would do in the same circumstances.
While anyone can be accused of negligence, this legal concept often arises in personal injury claims. For example, a person injured in an avoidable slip-and-fall accident at a business may sue the business owner for negligence for the injuries or loss they sustained due to the fall.
The Principles of Negligence
How does a court determine whether someone was negligent? For a negligence claim to be successful, the plaintiff must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that:
- there was a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff;
- there was a breach of the standard of care by the defendant;
- the plaintiff sustained damages or losses; and
- the damages or losses claimed by the plaintiff were caused by the defendant’s breach of their standard of care (in fact and law).
As the above considerations demonstrate, determining whether a party was negligent is a very fact-specific exercise.The principles that apply when determining whether a person was negligent may vary depending on their relationship to the person who suffered damages.
What is Professional Negligence?
Professional negligence can arise when professionals fail to meet the duty of care required by and fulfill their professional duties to, their clients. Unlike ordinary negligence claims, professionals are typically held to a higher standard in that they are expected not just to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same circumstances but rather the level of care that a reasonable person with the same specialized knowledge and training would exercise.
Professional negligence can arise for a variety of professionals, such as:
- Doctors and other health care practitioners; and
- Social workers.
Who Can Bring a Professional Negligence Claim?
A professional negligence claim may arise when a former client commences a claim against a professional, for example, an accountant, alleging that they provided them with incorrect tax advice that resulted in them receiving a substantial income tax bill. Or for instance, a client may commence a claim against a lawyer claiming that they mishandled a file.
Professional negligence applies when an individual relies on a specific professional for their specialized knowledge in a particular area. As a result, professionals are held to a higher standard of care – specifically, that of someone in the same circumstances with an equivalent level of specialized expertise.
The Consequences of Professional Negligence
The consequences of professional negligence can be far-reaching for various professionals and may have substantial impacts on their careers.
Professional Negligence Claims
It is not uncommon for current or former clients to bring professional negligence claims against professionals they have worked with, as evidenced by the examples provided above. In these cases, a client may attempt to sue a professional for alleged professional negligence that occurred while the professional acted on the client’s behalf.
Depending on the nature of the relationship, services performed, and consequences of negligent representation, the outcome of a professional negligence claim can vary greatly. For example, in a medical malpractice claim, where a patient claims that a doctor or other healthcare professional acted negligently, the resulting losses can be devastating for the healthcare provider. Not only can a finding of professional negligence result in compensation for monetary losses arising from the negligence, but also damages for non-pecuniary losses, for example, compensation for injuries or loss of enjoyment of life.
In other cases, a claimant’s damages may relate to monetary losses, for example, if an accountant’s client was required to pay additional income taxes due to poor advice from the accountant.
Loss of Reputation
Professional negligence claims don’t always just result in financial losses for professionals; they can also significantly impact a professional’s reputation. While professionals are only human and may make mistakes during the course of their careers, professional negligence claims can impact others’ perceptions of that professional’s capabilities and resulting work. This can create challenging relationships between the professional and their employer, existing clients, or prospective clients.
Professional Disciplinary Action
Professionals who have been accused of negligence may also face disciplinary action from their professional regulator. However, professional negligence will not always automatically result in disciplinary action. Whether or not the professional will be subject to disciplinary action may depend on factors such as professional regulations or code of conduct governing the profession.
If a professional commits professional negligence and disciplinary action follows, the professional could face a number of penalties ranging from a fine, licence suspension or removal from their profession.
Final Thoughts on Professional Negligence
Understanding how professional negligence claims operate and their potential impacts is important for both professionals and those relying on their advice and knowledge. Moreover, professionals need to understand how their rights and obligations interact with those of their clients, as this can help ensure that they meet the appropriate standard of care when providing services to their clients or patients.
However, if you find yourself facing a complaint regarding professional negligence, it is important to speak with an experienced professional regulation lawyer as soon as possible. They can advise you on your rights and options moving forward. They can also represent you before your regulatory body if a hearing is required.
Contact Campbells LLP for Exceptional Representation in Professional Liability Matters
The skilled lawyers at Campbells LLP are committed to providing clients with top-tier advice and unparalleled representation in various claims, including those pertaining to professional negligence and other litigation. We work hard to resolve professional liability matters effectively and efficiently. Our lawyers represent our clients’ interests and preserve their rights and reputation against various claims. Contact us online or call us at (905) 828-2247 to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.