What is Professional Negligence?

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Professional negligence is a type of legal claim that can be brought forward when professionals, often lawyers, doctors, or accountants, fail to perform their duties with the care that would be expected of someone in their profession. This failure might result in loss or harm to the person who relied on their services, and that person may be entitled to compensation for their losses.

Where can professional negligence occur?

Professional negligence claims can arise in a variety of circumstances. For example, a doctor may be found to be negligent if they fail to diagnose an obvious medical condition that results in harm to their patient. An accountant could be found to be negligent if they provide inaccurate and careless financial advice, which results in financial losses for their client.

Four necessary conditions

To succeed in a claim for professional negligence, a person must prove four things: first, that the professional owed them a duty of care; second, that the professional breached that duty of care; third, that the breach of duty caused the person harm; and fourth, that the loss was easily foreseeable.

Duty of care

The duty of care owed by a professional is a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care in their work. This means that the professional must provide a level of service that is appropriate for someone in their profession, taking into account their level of experience, training, and knowledge.

Breach of duty of care

Breach of the duty of care occurs when the professional fails to provide the level of service that would be expected of someone in their profession. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as by making a mistake, providing inaccurate advice, or failing to take appropriate steps to protect their client’s interests.

Cause of loss

The person must prove that the breach of the duty of care caused them harm or loss. This means that they must show that, but for the professional’s negligence, they would not have suffered the losses they did. 

For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition and the person suffers harm as a result, they must prove that they would not have suffered that harm if the doctor had made the correct diagnosis.

Reasonable foreseeability

Finally, it must be provable that the loss was reasonably foreseeable, and that a professional acting at a reasonable standard of competence could not be expected to avoid the incident.

Time limits

In the UK, there are time limits for bringing professional negligence claims. Generally, a person must bring their claim within six years of the date on which the breach of the duty of care occurred. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and it’s important to seek legal advice from a specialist such as Weightmans Solicitors as soon as possible, whether you think you may have a claim, or may soon face a claim, of professional negligence.

Professional negligence can have serious ramifications on your life. As with all legal matters, it’s crucial that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity available, to ensure that you receive the best legal advice possible.

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