Professional malpractice is an area of legal practice, dealing with an individual professional’s or a business’s wrongdoing or negligence that causes injury or damage. A few typical examples of professional malpractice are breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, mismanagement, errors in judgment, misconduct or carelessness.
Though the most common type of professional malpractice claim involves medical negligence, other professionals may be liable for damages when their negligence or carelessness causes injury to others. As with medical malpractice, the standard of care that a professional must follow is higher than that of an ordinary citizen. Typically, a professional will be held to the same standard as other similar professionals with similar training and experience, working in the same community.
Attorneys are bound by a code of ethics, and may be sued for compensation for any losses stemming from a breach of any provision of the code. The most common types of legal malpractice claims involve:
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- A failure to know or apply the law—This happens most often when attorneys take cases that are outside their area of practice or experience.
- Negligence in the discovery or investigation phase of a legal matter—Lawyers may fail to use reasonable care to identify witnesses or gather and preserve evidence.
- Failure to file documents in a timely manner—Attorneys may miss deadlines imposed by the rules of civil or criminal procedure, or may simply fail to file important or required documents.
- Failure to obtain consent of client—It may be malpractice if a lawyer makes a decision about a major issue, such as the amount of a settlement, without consulting the client.
- Misuse of escrow funds or fraud—Funds paid on retainer or placed in escrow may not be used unless earned or unless the attorney has a legal right to use them.
- Conflict of interest—It is a violation of the code of ethics for the attorney to have any personal or business interests that undermine or compromise his obligation to represent his client zealously within the bounds of the law.
Architectural or Engineering Malpractice
An architect or engineer may be liable for malpractice for a failure to use reasonable care in the design, consulting or advising on any building project. Examples of architectural or engineering malpractice include:
- Failure to consult appropriate guidelines to determine weight loads, structural integrity or other characteristics of building materials.
- Failure to take appropriate weather, sub-strata, environmental or similar factors into account in the design or engineering of a project
- Failure to properly supervise workers in the performance of tasks on a project
Certified public accountants and other financial advisors can be liable for damages for negligence or carelessness in their work. Typical accounting malpractice claims include allegations of:
- Carelessness in the preparation of a tax return or financial statement
- Negligence in due diligence in the review of profit and loss statements, or balance sheets
- Overstatement of net worth
Other Professional Malpractice
Any person who performs a service as a licensed professional may be liable for damages for a failure to follow accepted standards of practice. Potential defendants in malpractice actions can include dentists and dental specialists, pharmacists, and beauticians/hairdressers.
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