If a consultant, accountant, engineer, or financial advisor fails to meet the standard or duty of care expected in their field of expertise, and it results in harm or financial loss to one of your clients, that’s the definition of professional negligence, and the client can sue you for damages.

Professional negligence can occur in multiple industries or professions. In essence, a professional negligence claim can be made against anyone who’s considered an expert in their vocation or through the services they provide and who’s been paid by a client for their services and advice.  

Examples of Professional Negligence

Examples of professional negligence can include misdiagnosis or medical errors by a healthcare professional, financial mismanagement by an accountant, poor advice given by a consultant, or faulty designs by an architect, contractor, or engineer that leads to structural failures of a building project.

Understanding what professional negligence is.

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If you’re liable for professional negligence, you may be required to compensate the affected party or parties for the harm caused. That can include covering the client’s expenses, lost income, or repairing damages to their properties.  

Moreover, your reputation may be hurt, and depending on your industry or profession, you can face disciplinary actions as per your industry’s regulations and laws in your province.

What’s the Difference Between Professional Negligence and Misconduct?

Though professional negligence and professional misconduct are similar concepts, each is unique and has different consequences.

Professional negligence involves a breach of the standard or duty of care owed by a professional or business owner to their clients that other qualified professionals would provide. When a breach of that duty results in damages to a client, that’s professional negligence.

On the other hand, professional misconduct involves improper behaviour or actions by a professional or business owner that breaches the ethical or professional standards of conduct. Those actions may not directly harm a client, but they still violate the principles of a specific profession or industry.

5 Ways to Prevent Professional Negligence Claims

To prevent a professional negligence claim against you or your business, consider these five tips for avoiding the situation: 

1. Maintain High Standards

Continuously update your knowledge and skills and stay current with the latest developments, best practices, and industry standards. Attending workshops, seminars, and relevant training programs can enhance your expertise and help grow your career. Professionals who maintain high standards and embrace continuous learning are less likely to make mistakes.

2. Define the Scope for Every Job

Set clear expectations in writing with your clients. Define the scope of your services, the limitations of your expertise, and all the potential risks involved. A written, signed contract establishes a mutual understanding of your services and should include disclaimers regarding outcomes beyond your control.

3. Keep Accurate Records

Keep detailed records of all client interactions, decisions, and communications. That documentation can serve as evidence of the professional care and diligence you provided if you must defend yourself in court against any professional negligence claims.

4. Communicate Effectively with Your Clients

Maintain open and transparent communication with clients to manage their expectations and address their concerns promptly. Always inform clients of progress, potential risks, and any significant changes in circumstances that may affect the project or service.

5. Have Quality Control Measures in Place

Establishing quality control procedures and reviewing processes to ensure your work is thoroughly checked for accuracy and complies with industry standards. Doing so before delivering on your commitment to a client can catch potential errors before they become significant problems.

What Insurance Covers Professional Negligence?

Professional liability insurance – also called errors and omissions (E&O) insurance – is designed to cover claims related to a professional’s or small business owner’s professional services against allegations of negligent acts, mistakes, and failing to deliver a service as promised. It also includes coverage for your media services if you are facing an allegation of defamation that results in one of your clients being sued.

Protect your business and reputation with a customized professional liability insurance policy from Zensurance.

Fill out our online application for a free quote. We’ll shop our partner network of over 50 insurance providers to get the coverage you need and tailor it to your requirements. 

Moreover, our experienced business insurance brokers can advise you on the coverage limits, provide risk mitigation tips, and ensure you have the maximum coverage at the lowest price available on the market.

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About the Author: Justin Tisdale

Justin Tisdale is a Team Lead, Professional Lines, at Zensurance.