Professional Malpractice

Though the most common type of professional malpractice involves carelessness or negligence by medical personnel, other professionals, from attorneys to accountants to architects, pharmacists and dentists, are also held to a higher standard of care, and may be sued for failing to meet the expected degree of attention.

The Standard of Care for Professionals

Professional malpractice claims are almost always based on a legal theory of negligence. When a jury is charged with determining whether a professional has engaged in malpractice, they must first determine whether the professional used the appropriate level, or standard, of care. If the professional failed to use the necessary level of care, and someone suffered losses as a result, the professional may be liable for malpractice.

The standard of care, though, for a professional, is different than that for an ordinary citizen. As a general rule, the standard of care for a professional is that level of care that a reasonably prudent professional in that line of work would exercise. Accordingly, an architect could be found negligent for failing to act as a reasonably prudent architect would. The jury will customarily look at the specific type of work the professional performed. For example, if the architect designed a high-rise building, the standard of care will be based on what a reasonably prudent high-rise building architect would do.

The Common Types of Professional Malpractice

See our separate article on medical malpractice.

Malpractice claims can be filed against any professional, but the most frequent claims involve allegations of:

  • Legal malpractice—Failure to file documents in a timely manner, failure to represent a client as set forth in the code of ethics, misuse of client funds, failure to appear on behalf of a client, carelessness in the preparation or review of documents
  • Pharmaceutical malpractice—Prescription errors, including wrong dosage or incorrect medications
  • Accounting malpractice—Negligence or carelessness in the preparation or review of financial documents, accounts or statements
  • Broker malpractice—Failure to disclose risk, churning, self-dealing
  • Architectural/engineering malpractice—Design errors, failure to properly consider loads and load-bearing capacities
  • Mortuary negligence—Wrongful cremation or burial