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The definition of professional negligence varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it typically entails a professional rendering his or her services in a way that falls below the standard of care typically employed by similar professionals in his or her geographic location. Making the decision to bring a professional negligence claim against a doctor, attorney, accountant, or other professional is a serious matter that requires planning and careful thought. The potential litigant must consider several factors, including an understanding of the standard of care in his or her area. Further, he or she should understand all of the potential costs, risks, and rewards in the process of litigating a professional negligence claim.
The most important consideration in bringing a professional liability claim is the potential litigant should seek the knowledge of an attorney experienced in the area in which relief will be sought. For instance, professional negligence by an attorney is far different than professional negligence by a doctor and requires much different expertise. In the initial consultation, the potential litigant should ask very specific questions of the attorney as to his or her experience and success in the particular area of law.
The potential litigant should understand the applicable standard by which his or her professional negligence claim will be judged. This standard varies depending on the jurisdiction and the type of professional negligence. However, any attorney who practices in professional negligence litigation will have a full and complete understanding of the standard and how it is likely to be applied by the court to the litigant’s claim. In the event that the attorney informs the litigant that his or her case is not likely to meet the standard of professional negligence in his or her area, it may be a signal to end the process and not waste any further money or time.
If the attorney tells the litigant that the professional negligence claim may have some credence, then the litgant may continue, but there are still more things to consider. Professional negligence claims result in a long and costly litigation process because the case can turn upon very minute details. Prior to filing a professional negligence claim, the potential litigant should consider if this cost is worth incurring based on the strength of his or her case.
On a related point, the risk of loss must be at the forefront of every potential professional negligence claim. Professional negligence cases are typically difficult for the plaintiff to win as a finding of professional negligence generally requires acts by the professional that are difficult to prove. Understanding this risk as well as the upfront costs that a professional negligence claim requires is important, as it must be balanced against the potential damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff if he or she wins the case.
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