Have you been injured by negligent actions of a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or other professional? Then you may have a personal injury claim for professional negligence. What is professional negligence? How does it differ from other forms of negligence? And how can you prove it? Here are answers to your most pressing questions.
What Is Professional Negligence?
For legal purposes, negligence is the failure to act with the same level of prudence that a similar person would have in the same circumstances. However, negligence can have different levels depending on the incident. Ordinary negligence means failing to take the precautions that a reasonable layperson would in the same situation. Criminal negligence rises to the level of being grossly outside that norm.
By contrast, professional negligence uses as its measuring stick what the expected standard of care is in that profession. If a surgeon leaves a sponge inside the patient's body, which causes infection, for instance, they likely violated the standard of care for their profession.
Who Can Be Sued for Professional Negligence?
Professional negligence is also often called malpractice. Many Americans have heard of this term in regard to doctors and other medical providers. These are usually the most common cases.
However, any professional performing their professional services could be guilty of malpractice or professional negligence. If a lawyer gives advice that goes against standard legal practice, they could be negligent if their client was harmed by it. While less common, malpractice could occur by architects and builders, accountants and financial planners, veterinarians, and many others.
Are Malpractice Cases Complicated?
Unfortunately for victims, the different standards by which a professional is judged on negligence make their case harder. Why? In general, jurors are laypersons—ordinary citizens—who understand what's considered reasonable for other ordinary laypersons. However, they don't know the specifics of the profession involved. Few jurors are doctors, lawyers, or accountants.
This hurdle means you must work harder to explain the details of the negligence, educate them on professional standards, and convince them that these were violated. Most malpractice cases require at least one expert witness—and often more than one. You will also usually face the defendant's own expert witnesses, who will argue their version of the situation.
What Must You Prove?
Although professional negligence is somewhat different from ordinary negligence, the legal process is the same. As with all personal injury cases, you must prove four key components. The first is that the person had a duty of care toward you. For a professional, this usually includes having formed a business relationship or getting consent to provide services. Their duty of care is higher than the average stranger's.
Next, the person must have breached that duty. This is where the hardest element of professional malpractice comes into play. You will need to convince the jury that it wasn't just an ordinary error, a different choice of treatment, or otherwise within the normal practice of their profession.
Third, the breach must have caused injury. This element is usually fairly straightforward in malpractice cases. The sponge left inside the body was a foreign object which caused an infection. However, connecting these dots can be harder if time has passed or if more factors were in play at the time.
Finally, you will show that the injury caused financial and personal loss. This is how financial damages are calculated and awarded by the jury if you win.
Where Should You Start?
While you may face a challenging personal injury lawsuit, you can prevail. The best way to ensure this is to meet with The Brogdon Firm today. We'll put our years of experience in personal injury to work for you, no matter the circumstances of your injury. Call today to learn more or get a free consultation.