Professional liability

Where people work, mistakes are made. However, this does not mean that these mistakes always have to be accepted. A dentist’ client should expect that his molars get extracted properly for example. What are your options when a professional does make a mistake?

Performance agreement

The assignment given to a professional (e.g. architects, attorneys, notaries, bailiffs, tax consultants, accountants and doctors) can be qualified as a performance agreement. The professional is deemed to act in accordance with the standards of a good contractor, but what that means exactly depends on the circumstances of every specific case. In short, a contractor must act equal to a reasonable competent and acting colleague. He must do his job well. E.g. an attorney is expected to know the most recent laws and a consultant is deemed to point out the risks of certain transactions to his client.

Disciplinary code of conducts

Every group of professionals has their own code of conduct. Doctors have medical disciplinary laws, where attorneys fall under the attorney disciplinary laws. These codes of conduct are to be

enforced and give substance to the relevant standard of care. Whoever makes use of a professional needs to rely on the fact that those professional at least comply with the minimum quality standards.

File a disciplinary complaint

Provided that those standards are not met, you can file a disciplinary complaint at a court of law or other disciplinary college. That college assesses whether the professional neglected his duty. The disciplinary laws have the goal to regulate the conduct of the individual professional. Within the disciplinary laws various sanctions can be imposed, which could have far-reaching consequences. Examples are suspension or disqualification from the occupational group.

Civil liability

A disciplinary judge can only rarely impose damages, for which a separate civil procedure is necessary. As claimant you need to hold the professional liable in court for an imputable shortcoming and/or on the grounds of wrongful act. Provided that an agreement is the basis of the professional neglect, this could lead to imputable shortcoming. When there is no agreement, the liability can be grounded on wrongful act. When liability can be established, the professional have to compensate the damage. Not all professional mistakes will add up to disciplinary or civil liability. The case law shows that concrete circumstances determine whether the professional breached the duty of care. A disciplinary judgment will establish the liability.

More information

When you are confronted with a professional mistake, do not hesitate. Contact one of our attorneys who can assist you with counsel.

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