Have You Been Harmed By a Professional’s Negligence or Attorney Malpractice?
A person or company’s relationship with its attorney, accountant, broker or other professional is a relationship of the utmost trust and confidence. These professionals are specifically hired and relied upon for their special training, skill and knowledge in their fields. While often unintentional, there are unfortunately times when these professionals fail to perform their services with the reasonable skill and care that their profession requires. The business litigation attorneys of Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can help. We have extensive experience including going to trial with claims involving professional negligence and attorney malpractice and have litigated the nuances and potential pitfalls for the inexperienced.
Professional Negligence and Attorney Malpractice
To succeed on a legal claim for professional negligence or attorney malpractice the following must be proven: (1) the duty of the professional to use the skill and care that other persons in his or her profession commonly possess and exercise, (2) a breach of that duty, and (3) an actual loss caused thereby.
For example, a professional negligence claim might arise from an accountant’s over or understatement of assets on a company’s financial statement, or from a real estate agent’s failure to deliver a timely acceptance of an offer. In cases involving attorneys, a malpractice claim might be based on the attorney’s deficient investigation, improper or incorrect advice, or failure to submit a court filing before the deadline.
A Professional’s Standard of Care
All professionals owe a duty to their clients to use the skill and care that others in their profession commonly possess and exercise. This minimum level of skill and care is often described as the “standard of care.” Indeed, this is what the client relies upon and reasonably expects to receive when hiring a professional.
In those cases where the professional is a specialist in his or her field (or promotes themselves as a specialist), the duty or standard of care required is the ordinary skill and care exercised by other specialists in the same field.
Breach of the Standard of Care
An attorney or other professional breaches their standard of care when he or she fails to use the skill and care that a reasonably careful attorney or like professional would have used under the same or similar circumstances.
An attorney does not ordinarily guarantee the soundness of his opinions, and accordingly, is not legally responsible for every mistake he or she may make in his practice. He or she is expected, however, to possess knowledge of those general principles of law which are commonly known by attorneys, and to discover those additional rules of law which, although not commonly known, may be found by standard research techniques.
An attorney must perform legal services competently, meaning they must apply the diligence, learning and skill, as well as the mental and physical ability reasonably necessary to perform the particular legal service her or she is retained to provide. However, if an attorney does not have the sufficient learning or skill when the legal service is undertaken, they may nonetheless perform such services competently by associating with, or if appropriate, consulting with another attorney reasonably believed to be competent, or by acquiring sufficient learning or skill before performance is required.
Proof of Actual Loss or Damages
A claim for professional negligence or malpractice must be based on an actual loss or damage suffered. Negligent conduct that does not cause an actual appreciable harm, or if the harm is speculative or only a possible future harm not yet realized, it does not suffice to establish a legal claim for professional negligence or malpractice.
In attorney malpractice cases, the plaintiff must show that they would have obtained a better result had the attorney used the skill and care of a reasonably careful attorney. Where the attorney’s negligence does not result in a total loss of the client’s claim, the measure of damages is the difference between what was recovered and what would have been recovered but for the attorney’s wrongful act or omission.
Getting Legal Help
Brown & Charbonneau, LLP represents individuals as well as large and small companies in cases involving all forms of professional negligence and attorney malpractice. If you are involved in a professional negligence or attorney malpractice claim or would like to learn about your rights and how to protect your business, we can provide you with the information you need. Call today at (714) 505-3000, or contact us online to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.