What is a Professional Malpractice Lawyer?
Professional malpractice occurs when a professional fails to act according to an accepted standard in their industry, resulting in harm and damages to a client. For instance, if a doctor mistakenly amputates a patient’s healthy right leg when it should have been the left leg, they have harmed the patient, who will now have emotional and monetary damages.
Lawyers specializing in professional malpractice generally fall into two categories:
- Defense lawyers. A professional is usually backed up by liability insurance. When accused of malpractice, the insurance company assigns a lawyer or legal team to defend them. These lawyers try to disprove malpractice occurred or reduce the amount of damages owed.
- Lawyers for the plaintiff. Other professional malpractice lawyers work for the plaintiff, the person accusing a professional of negligence. They help their clients recover damages, either through a settlement or by litigating in court.
The medical profession is often the subject of malpractice cases, but other professionals are held to similarly high standards and may be accused of negligence. Lawyers work with clients in all kinds of malpractice cases, including those that involve engineers, architects, veterinarians, financial planners, lawyers, and others.
When Do I Need a Professional Malpractice Lawyer?
If you are a professional and a client or patient has accused you of negligence, you need a professional malpractice lawyer for the defense. You will not likely need to find your own attorney. As a professional, you should have liability insurance. The insurance company will pay any damages owed, so they will also provide representation.
For non-professionals, hiring a professional malpractice lawyer is less straightforward. You may be unsure whether or not you need one. If you know a professional has been negligent in providing you services, or even if you only suspect it, it’s worth talking to a lawyer. They can help you understand if you have a case to pursue. Generally, hire a professional malpractice lawyer in situations like these:
- A professional you hired made a mistake, and you’re not sure if it counts as negligence or malpractice.
- You tried to settle a dispute with a professional, but they refuse to help.
- A mistake a professional made cost you money.
- A mistake a professional made caused emotional suffering.
- You think that a professional you hired may have done something illegal or intentionally fraudulent in providing your services.
What Will a Professional Malpractice Lawyer Do for Me?
Making a case against a professional for malpractice isn’t easy. They have big insurance companies and legal teams behind them, and the burden is on you to prove negligence based on breaching a standard of care. When you hire an experienced professional malpractice lawyer, they will be able to do several things for you:
- Communicate on your behalf
A lawyer can represent you in any communications with the professional in question or with their insurer or legal team.
- Provide resources
Making a case for malpractice requires a lot of resources. You need to investigate the incident, for instance, and talk to experts. A law firm that works on malpractice cases has the resources and the network of investigators and experts you do not.
- Prove negligence
A case of malpractice may seem obvious to you, but to recover damages, you must prove the professional was negligent. A lawyer experienced in these cases knows what it takes to prove a claim of professional negligence.
- Negotiate a settlement
Many cases of negligence and malpractice end in settlements rather than going to court. Insurers often prefer to negotiate for damages rather than take their chances on a verdict, which is usually more costly.
- Litigate if needed
When the insurer refuses to settle, or when they offer you too little, you can take them to court. This is a lengthy, complicated process, but the right lawyer has experience with litigation and can represent and advocate for you in court.
- Maximize damages
Negotiating on your own is challenging. You may not even know how much to request in damages. Professional malpractice lawyers understand all the potential costs associated with negligence and can recover more for you.
How to Find and Hire a Professional Malpractice Lawyer
Many firms advertise experience with professional malpractice cases. Some specialize in medical or legal cases, but most should handle any type of professional malpractice. You can also contact your state bar association or the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys for referrals.
Finding a lawyer to handle a malpractice case is not difficult. Many specialize in this area of the law, but before you hire the first firm you come across, line up a few and set up interviews. Any reputable firm or attorney will be happy to give you a free initial consultation. Have some questions ready to ask that will help you make a decision:
- How long have you been working with plaintiffs in malpractice cases?
- Have you handled the type of professional malpractice I experienced?
- Do you have experts on staff or in your network to help prove my case?
- How much time and resources can you devote to my case?
- Will you be working on my case, or will it be someone else in the firm?
- Do you see any problems with my case?
- What do you think I can expect in damages?
- How long will my case take?
Don’t forget to talk about fees with each lawyer or firm. Make sure you can afford their services and request a contingency plan for payment. This means they don’t charge a fee until they win your case and you recover damages.
Working with Your Lawyer
When you hire a lawyer, it’s tempting to leave everything to them and to step aside. While your lawyer is the expert and will do much of the leg work, they need your input. Start by providing your lawyer with all the information they request. Be honest when answering their questions, and don’t leave out any details, even if you think they are unimportant.
Let your lawyer know what your goals are and the outcome you expect. Be timely to meetings and easy to contact. Ask questions and stay up to date on the progress of your case. When you work together well, the outcome will be better.
A case of professional malpractice can be complicated, lengthy and difficult. It’s best to have an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process.