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When Should You File a Professional Negligence Claim?

Posted by M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola | Jul 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Although we all try to choose the best professionals when we need to seek medical care, financial or accounting advice, or the legal services of an attorney, sometimes a professional makes an error. In that case, it is prudent to determine whether you have grounds to bring a professional negligence claim against the medical or legal professional or the financial adviser.

In The Bahamas, people may bring lawsuits against professionals who are negligent in performing their duties. The Bahamas follows the English common law on negligence, which provides that negligence is the breach of a duty of care owed by one person to another which results in foreseeable harm or damage to another person. Courts have found that professionals have a higher duty of care to their clients when practicing their profession. Major mistakes by professionals can give rise to a professional negligence claim. In the Bahamas, numerous types of professionals may be subject to a professional negligence claim, including attorneys, doctors, accountants and architects.

Standards of professional conduct for Bahamian attorneys distinguish between “incompetence” and “negligence”. While a mistake by an attorney may constitute negligence under the law, it may not rise to the level of incompetence for which an attorney would be disciplined. (Bar Practice Regulations, Rule II(7).)

Bahamian courts evaluate medical malpractice under the negligence standard described above. Like attorneys, doctors may be disciplined in addition to being sued in a negligence lawsuit. A distinction is drawn between negligence, incompetence, and “serious professional misconduct”. Serious professional misconduct is defined as acts done “contrary to the generally recognised duty and responsibility of such a person to his patient or that is contrary to medical ethics, or the failure to do any act or thing with respect to a patient in accordance with generally recognized medical ethics…” (Medical Act, Sect. 15(2).) Any improper conduct, which includes negligence, incompetence, and serious professional misconduct, is subject to discipline by the Medical Council.

Accountants may also be faced with both a negligence lawsuit and disciplinary action for their serious mistakes. (Public Accountants Act, Sect. 20.) What constitutes a mistake that gives rise to a negligence claim is constantly being interpreted by the courts; however, establishing that a professional has acted incompetently or has otherwise violated professional conduct rules exposing her to discipline by the Disciplinary Tribunal, Medical Council, or Institute of Chartered Accountants may be helpful in establishing breach of the duty of care.

A qualified attorney can help you evaluate whether you have a negligence claim against a professional. To find out more, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.

About the Author

M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola

M. Margaret Gonsalves-Sabola is a civil and commercial litigation attorney and an accredited civil and commercial mediator. Margaret has over 21 years' experience in legal practice in the United Kingdom, Jamaica and The Bahamas.

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