On any given day, we rely on the quality work of dozens of professionals—even if we don’t stop to reflect on it.
When driving over a bridge, we put our lives in the hands of the engineers who designed the bridge. When we visit a pharmacy for a prescription, we rely on the staff to give us the right medication at the right dosage. Even going for a haircut, we assume the hairstylist went through beauty school and knows what he or she is doing.
Most people don’t think about it, because we trust that these professionals are certified, responsible, and engaged in the work that they do, and most of the time they are.
But occasionally, purported experts fail to perform their job at the expected degree of quality, and their clients are the ones who pay the price. When this happens in certain professions, it is called malpractice, and you may be able to hold them responsible for what happened to you.
What is Professional Malpractice?
Professional malpractice (also referred to as professional negligence) is an instance of a negligent or incompetent service on the part of a professional that injures, or otherwise damages, a plaintiff.
Any service that involves an accredited expert or professional has the possibility for malpractice, from dentists to architects to accountants. A malpractice claim asserts that a professional failed to perform their job with the standard of care for that particular profession. The standard of care is the amount of caution and attention a reasonably prudent individual would exercise in a specific line of work.
For example, during a medical malpractice case against a doctor working in an emergency room, the jury would measure how the ER doctor behaved compared to other reasonably responsible ER doctors.
Thus, a successful professional malpractice claim must prove two things: first, that the profession failed to meet the expected standard of quality, and second, that the plaintiff was harmed as a result.
To better illustrate this concept, below are some examples of common forms of professional malpractice:
When you enter a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office, you expect the medical professionals there to do the best they can to make you better. At the very least, you don’t expect them to make your problem worse.
Almost exclusively, medical malpractice suits are built on claims of negligence. It is true medicine is prone to unforeseeable or unpreventable misfortune. But negligence claims assert that injury, poor health, or death was a direct result of a doctor, nurse, or surgeon’s carelessness.
For example, a medical malpractice claim might argue a medical professional failed to diagnose an illness or misdiagnosed an illness. Usually these claims concern serious health issues like cardiovascular diseases or cancer. Diagnostic malpractice could stem from many sources, like a doctor failing to conduct the appropriate tests, or using outdated equipment.
Another common claim is prescription malpractice. Doctors may prescribe the wrong drug or the incorrect dosage. Nurses may not pay attention to when a patient was medicated, or what the dose was. Perhaps the poor handwriting of a doctor led a pharmacist to provide the wrong medication.
If you hire an attorney to represent you in court, you expect the attorney to be competent and knowledgeable in the field of law. If your attorney fails to meet these standards, and you are harmed as a result, your attorney may be liable for damages.
For example, you may be a victim of malpractice if your attorney failed to file court documents in a timely manner or misused the funds you supplied. Perhaps your attorney missed a court date, or showed up late. Maybe you feel your lawyer was careless in the preparation for your trial, or failed to return your calls for long periods of time. Any behavior that fails the standard of quality in the field of law and is harmful to the client may constitute malpractice.
Architects and engineers have a great deal of people relying on them to do their job to the best of their ability. If they fail to live up to the standard quality of their peers, the results can be disastrous.
If a structure is found to be unsafe, the architects and engineers under contract to build that structure could be held accountable. Alternatively, if an engineer or architect appraises an unstable structure for a prospective buyer, and carelessly judges it to be durable, they may be liable for economic or bodily injury suffered by the buyer.
An adept and experienced malpractice attorney will be able to help assess your situation and determine whether you have been a victim of negligence. Not all accidents are a result of malpractice, but if you feel a professional’s carelessness resulted in injury or damage to you, it is vital that you hold them accountable.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.