You’ll likely rely on professionals to help you with various tasks throughout your life. Whether it’s a doctor providing you with regular medical care or a lawyer helping you with a legal matter, these individuals offer essential specialized services for the general public.

At the same time, these professionals hold significant responsibilities, and a medical or legal mistake can have life-altering impacts on an individual. So, what happens when professional negligence occurs – in other words, what happens when a professional fails to meet the expected standard of care?

This is where the concept of professional negligence comes into play. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the concept of professional negligence, the types of professionals it applies to, and the remedies available for individuals who have suffered injury or loss due to a professional’s negligence.

The Concept of Professional Negligence Defined

The concepts of professional negligence and malpractice are often used synonymously. Both concepts refer to situations where an individual in a professional role fails to perform their duties to the standard expected by their profession, resulting in loss or damage to another person.

For example, a doctor who misdiagnoses a patient (say, reporting that a patient does not have a disease when they do) may be liable for professional negligence. Or, an accountant who files an incorrect tax return on behalf of a client may be found liable for professional negligence.

At a high level, professional negligence doesn’t differ significantly from “normal” negligence claims. However, the concept, as a legal claim, exists due to the significant responsibility we place on professionals in society. As these parties are held to a high standard—and held in high esteem—it follows that they must be held liable for actions they take in their professional capacity that cause damage or loss to members of the general public.

The Elements of Professional Negligence

Professional negligence is assessed under the law of negligence. Under the principles of negligence, an individual claiming that a professional committed negligence must prove the following:

  • The professional owed the individual a duty of care;
  • The professional breached their standard of care to the individual;
  • The professional’s breach of the standard of care caused or contributed to the injury or loss suffered by the individual and
  • The individual suffered actual injury or loss due to the professional’s negligence.

Determining the standard of care owed by a professional to an individual typically asks whether the professional acted (or failed to act) in a manner expected of a reasonable, prudent, and diligent professional in the same circumstances.

Types of Professional Negligence

Professional negligence can arise in a wide variety of circumstances across different industries. For example:

  • Medical Malpractice: Doctors and other healthcare professionals may be subject to medical malpractice claims in many situations, including misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, or incorrect prescriptions that result in harm to patients.
  • Legal Malpractice: Lawyers may be subject to legal malpractice claims in circumstances where they fail to provide competent representation or act in their client’s best interests (for example, missing deadlines or providing incorrect legal advice). e).
  • Accounting Malpractice: Accountants may be subject to accounting malpractice claims where they make errors in financial statements, provide incorrect tax advice, or breach generally accepted accounting standards.
  • Engineering Malpractice: Engineers and architects may be subject to malpractice claims where they cause property damage or personal injury due to a design error, construction defect, or failure to adhere to building codes.

So, what happens when an individual successfully advances a professional negligence claim against a professional? They may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and losses. This can include monetary damage to cover financial losses (such as compensation for income loss or out-of-pocket expenses) and “non-pecuniary damages,” which cover compensation for pain and suffering.

Regulation of Professionals in Ontario

In addition to being sued for professional negligence, professionals may face disciplinary action from their regulator or professional governing body.

Professionals in particular professions, like medicine, law, accounting, or engineering, are regulated to ensure that practitioners meet certain standards of ethics, competency, and professionalism. This includes ensuring that these professionals have the appropriate qualifications to provide services in their chosen field and continue to meet their professional obligations throughout their careers.

So, when an individual brings a professional negligence claim against a professional, they’ll likely do so in tandem with a complaint against the professional to their regulatory body. These regulatory bodies have the authority to investigate complaints against practitioners and, if appropriate, take disciplinary action against them. These actions can range from warnings and fines to suspensions—or even the revocation of the practitioner’s license.

Other Claims Against Professionals

Beyond professional negligence and complaints, an individual may bring several types of claims against a professional. Below, we’ve provided a couple of examples to illustrate other types of legal claims that are brought against professionals:

  • Breach of fiduciary duty: In these types of claims, a professional may be sued for breaching their duty of loyalty or confidentiality to a client.
  • Breach of contract: This broad category of claims may apply where a professional breaches the terms of an agreement they have with a client.
  • Fraud: In some cases, a professional misappropriates client funds or misrepresents their services.

Final Thoughts on Professional Negligence

Individuals rely on professionals in various fields to provide competent and diligent services, whether for medical, legal, or other purposes. When these professionals fail to fulfil their duties competently, the consequences can lead to significant damage or loss for clients.

Thankfully, professional negligence claims provide a mechanism for individuals to bring an action against a professional who has acted negligently. Professional regulators serve as an additional option for pursuing justice against professionals who have caused damage or loss to clients.

As every case is highly contextual, it’s critical to speak with an experienced professional negligence lawyer if you believe you have fallen victim to a professional’s negligent or wrongful actions. They will be in the best position to advise you on your rights and the best course of action so you can move forward.

Compassionate Professional Negligence Lawyers Serving Ottawa, Cornwall, Kingston and North Bay

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we understand how intimidating it can feel to bring a professional negligence claim against a trusted professional. Beyond the civil claim, the professional’s regulatory board may also take disciplinary action. Those seeking compensation for professional negligence need a representative who can help illuminate the process and find the best way forward. Tierney Stauffer LLP’s malpractice lawyers will diligently represent you in claims against professionals. If you require assistance with a claim against a professional, call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online for a free consultation


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