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How to Avoid Professional Negligence

Where professionals act without reasonable skill and care, harm can result. Whether it’s a doctor who misdiagnoses a serious illness, or an engineer whose bridge collapses, professionals who fall into this situation may find themselves vulnerable to professional negligence claims, and to paying huge damages.

There’s a particular legal bar to clear if a particular behaviour is to amount to negligence. Specifically, the professionally will have had to have made a mistake that wouldn’t have been made by a reasonable professional doing the same job.

So how can professionals protect themselves against claims of this sort?

Keep Records

If you find yourself accused of professional negligence, a paper trail will help you to support your version of events. Keep all paper correspondence and internal documents. Doing so digitally will allow you to keep hold of everything without storing huge quantities of files on your premises. By making sure that most correspondence is written, and that telephone conversations are noted (if not entirely transcribed), you can protect yourself.

Your record system should be easily navigated. When you come to track down a given correspondence, it’s likely that you’ll be doing so under pressure. It’s worth reviewing your procedures, and seeing if there are any tweaks you can make to simplify the record-retrieval process. 

Stick within your Remit

Professionals who step outside their expertise may find themselves in a vulnerable situation. A plumber, for example, might offer to plaster over the top of the pipework they’ve just installed into the wall. A professional who does this might be looking to help the client out – but if things don’t go to plan, then the client may well pursue you for damages. The safest option, therefore, is to stick within the original remit.

Make sure Clients do their bit

In many cases, the client’s co-operation might make a difference in the quality of the work you’re doing. Uncommunicative clients might later complain that you didn’t perform according to their wishes, and thus it’s important to nail them down on specifics wherever possible.

Be Realistic and Manage Expectations

Certain jobs are more difficult than others. If there’s a bruising deadline being considered, or you’re agreeing to inconvenience yourself unduly, then consider whether the quality of work will suffer. If it will, then you may be subjecting yourself to stress for no good reason.

Similarly, if a client is promised the world, they may take exception when they aren’t given it. Make sure that you explain as fully as possible what your service will and won’t do. Never push yourself to meet an expectation that isn’t realistic, especially if doing so would mean compromising on your own safety or that of the client.

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