Area of Law: Lawsuits / Civil Litigation
Answer Number: 494
Professional malpracticeRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 494
Professional malpractice refers to negligence or misdeeds by many professionals, such as doctors, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists, nurses, lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers and so forth. In most cases, lawsuits against professionals for malpractice are difficult to prove and are usually extremely expensive.
Standard for professionals
The law does not require professionals to be perfect. If they made a mistake that could have been made by a reasonable practitioner in similar circumstances, then they will not be liable for the injury or loss. To be successful in a lawsuit against a professional, you must be able to prove that they failed to provide the standard of service or care that other reasonable practitioners would provide in similar circumstances. For example, if you were not informed by your doctor of all risks associated with a procedure, or if your accountant did not follow accepted practices, you may have grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. The standard of care that must be met will vary with the type of care or service you required and the type of professional who provided it.
Obligations of professionals
All professionals have obligations to their patients or clients. For example, medical practitioners have an obligation, before administering any kind of medical treatment, to advise the patient fully of any associated risks, to discuss other options, and to fully explain the treatment. Lawyers have an obligation to act in the best interests of their clients. The obligations that each profession has is based on the law, and the guidelines of its governing body.
As a patient or client, you are also required to fulfill certain obligations under the law, such as providing full medical history to your doctor, or telling the truth about your case to your lawyer. If your failure to fulfill your obligations contributed to your injury or loss, the court may not hold the professional responsible, and will not compensate you. If you are successful in suing a professional, the court may award you compensation for out of pocket expenses, lost income, legal fees, and for your pain and suffering, if any.
Filing a complaint
Regardless of whether you decide to pursue a lawsuit against a professional, you also have the option of filing a formal complaint with the organization that governs that profession. For example, if your complaint is with a chartered accountant, you may contact the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. If your complaint is against an engineer, you may contact Professional Engineers Ontario.
If you wish to find out more about the professional standard for a specific profession, contact the organization that governs them. Be aware, however, that a finding of malpractice or negligence by a governing body may not result in any money being awarded to you. The governing body will, in most cases, be more concerned with disciplining the professional.
If you have suffered an injury or loss and you need legal advice or assistance, contact a lawyer as soon as possible, because strict limitation periods may apply.
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