Professionals have insurance to protect them when accidents happen. If your local vet reversed their car into you, or you reversed your car into them, neither of you would feel embarrassed about shaking hands and passing over the respective insurance documents.
While we all wished they wouldn’t, it is an unfortunate fact that accidents do happen. But, while most of us understand our rights with regards to motor accidents, the same is not true when an accident happens with respect to a professional service provider such as a vet, a builder, an accountant and yes, even your lawyer.
Part of the problem with addressing this type accident is in its title ‘professional negligence’, as this term can sound overly harsh.
The reality is, that just like motor accidents, everyone makes mistakes, even those that are very good at their jobs.
So, from here on in, assume that that you are treating an accident by a professional that you employ in the same way as you would a car prang. It’s important to understand what the law says regarding professional negligence.
The law requires professionals to exercise a reasonable degree of care and skill in their practice, as would be expected from another member of their profession.
Not exercising a reasonable degree of care and skill could include an accountant giving bad tax planning advice, or work by a builder or architect leading to problems with the construction of riding schools or other commercial or residential premises.
Professional negligence can also apply to an equine trainer, farrier, or livery yard owner, if they have failed to carry out their duty professionally. Claims for veterinary negligence could include: production of an inaccurate vetting certificate, failure or misdiagnosis of a problem, failure to refer to a specialist, administering negligent treatment, failing to keep up to date with changes in best practice or use of outdated or discredited techniques, procedures or medication.
So what are you claiming for? Quite simply, rectifying a mistake and any other associated costs. Just as with a car insurance claim, there may be additional expenses that need to be covered; further treatment for injured animals or a need to hire other buildings.
And just like with motor insurance, if it’s a classic or high-performance livestock animal, race or eventing horse that’s been injured – or worse – the costs escalate and can include other factors such as loss of breeding value.
Most of these claims are above the small claims court jurisdiction of £10,000. However, the good news is that professionals have insurance to cover them against accidents, called professional indemnity insurance, which pays compensation if mistakes are made. For most professionals, having professional indemnity insurance is an occupational requirement.
If you are concerned that you have suffered financially because of a mistake on behalf of a professional employed, don’t be ashamed to seek legal advice. We all have insurance to protect us, as every once in a while, mistakes are made.