People are often asked to place their lives, their futures, and their loved ones in the hands of someone with specific training or experience. We may have no choice but to rely on a professional for help, trusting him or her to act with the highest degree of care. Unfortunately, many professionals fail to deliver on their promises, causing physical, financial, or emotional injuries that can last the rest of a person’s life. When a specialist falls below the professional standard of care, victims can seek compensation under the law by suing for professional malpractice.
What Is Professional Malpractice?
Professional malpractice can be any activity that falls below the accepted standard of care provided by other practitioners. Generally speaking, the potential for malpractice exists any time an expert performs his or her professional duties. It can apply to any person, organization, or entity holding itself out to be a professional or accredited expert in a certain field. Some forms of malpractice may include intentional acts, while others may arise due to simple negligence or incompetence on the part of the professional.
Many organizations and individuals may be guilty of professional malpractice, including:
- Healthcare providers. Medical malpractice is the most common form of professional malpractice—often involving claims against doctors and hospitals, chiropractors, physical rehabilitation clinics, dentists and hygienists, pharmacists, dietitians, or even retirement communities and nursing homes. A hospital may share liability for the medical malpractice of a provider depending on the relationship between the practitioner and the hospital and whether the hospital was negligent in its duty to provide competent staff.
- Therapists. Patients place their trust in therapists, just as with any other medical provider. Professionals may abuse this trust to influence or control their patients. Therapists who may be guilty of malpractice include psychiatrists and mental health counselors, but also massage therapists, marriage and family counselors, school psychologists, and sports therapists. Any departure from the accepted standards of therapy could potentially cause mental or physical suffering to the patient, including using unapproved techniques, misdiagnosing patients, inappropriate self-disclosure, prescribing the wrong medication, taking sexual advantage of a patient, failing to take a detailed medical history or adequate note, or neglecting to consult with peers on a patient’s case.
- Veterinarians. An untrained or negligent veterinarian can cause severe or even fatal injury to a beloved pet. Veterinarian malpractice may include a lack of judgment, failure to follow current treatment protocols, improperly diagnosing an illness or condition, prescribing the wrong medications or treatment, mistreating or abusing animals under care, or negligently allowing the animal(s) to escape.
- Morticians. Morticians and funeral homes have a duty to honor human remains throughout the viewing, burial, or disposal process. Mortuary negligence, such as performing a cremation instead of a burial, returning cremated remains to the wrong families, co-mingling ashes, negligent embalming, burying the wrong body at a funeral, or loss of body or remains, can be extremely disrespectful to the deceased and cause trauma to his or her family.
- Stockbrokers. Investors rely on the specialized knowledge and training of their stockbrokers, so dishonesty in trading can cost the investor everything he has worked to build. In order to pursue a malpractice claim against a stockbroker, your case will likely go through arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)—a proceeding more streamlined than the United States court system. Our founding attorney Michael Foster has represented multiple defendants in FINRA actions and has a detailed understanding of the FINRA case process.
- Accountants. Financial advisors owe a special duty to their clients to perform their services competently and to the best of their abilities. A financial representative may breach his or her fiduciary duty by failing to properly prepare or examine financial documents, failing to give suitable or knowledgeable accounting advice, or even by committing outright embezzlement or fraud. Accountant malpractice claims typically include violations of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS), while some cases may involve federal securities regulations such as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
- Attorneys. No professional is above the law, including those who practice it. When you hire an attorney for legal representation, he or she is obligated to render competent and professional service. If your attorney’s lack of knowledge, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, or other negligence caused you to suffer damages, your attorney may be liable for those losses.
- Clergy. Many people consider their priests or pastors to be part therapist and part spiritual advisor, taking anything these people say as the word of God. Unfortunately, members of the clergy may abuse this role by engaging in sexual impropriety, sexual abuse of minors, knowingly giving bad advice for personal gain, breaching confidentiality, and defamation.
- Architects and engineers. Designers, engineers, and builders of a structure could all be held liable if negligence or a breach of contract results in injury. Architects may be responsible for failing to design structurally-sound buildings by not taking environmental factors, current building codes, and zoning laws into account. Similarly, a contractor may be guilty of malpractice by deliberately underestimating building costs, failing to complete a project by a prearranged deadline, or performing negligent home inspections for prospective buyers.
What Do I Need to Know About Professional Malpractice Cases?
The first thing victims should know is that there is often a very short window of time to file a claim for malpractice in Missouri. Additionally, it will usually be more difficult to gather evidence and witnesses as time goes on. For these reasons, it is important to act fast in order to protect your right to recovery.
Another concern is that many states limit the damages a person can receive for pain and suffering. For example, Missouri limits non-economic damages in medical negligence claims at $400,000 unless the victim suffered catastrophic injuries, such as paralysis, loss of more than two limbs, irreversible organ failure, brain injury, or permanent blindness. With so much at stake, it is vital that victims have an experienced and tenacious malpractice attorney fighting on their side.
Most professional malpractice cases operate under the theory of negligence. To prevail in a negligence case, the victim must show:
- The professional failed in his or her duty of care
- An injury resulted from the professional’s negligence
- The total cost of the injuries
Contact Our Experienced Professional Malpractice Attorneys for a Free Initial Consultation
Foster Wallace, LLC advises malpractice victims throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area on their rights after an injury. If you or someone you love has suffered due to a professional’s misconduct, call our office today or fill out our online contact form to set up your free initial consultation.