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malpractice

n. An act or continuing conduct of a professional which does not meet the standard of professional competence and results in provable damages to his/her client or patient. Such an error or omission may be through negligence, ignorance (when the professional should have known), or intentional wrongdoing. However, malpractice does not include the exercise of professional judgment even when the results are detrimental to the client or patient. Except in cases of extremely obvious or intentional wrongs, in order to prove malpractice there must be testimony of an expert as to the acceptable standard of care applied to the specific act or conduct which is claimed to be malpractice and testimony of the expert that the professional did not meet that standard. The defendant then can produce his/her own expert to counter that testimony. Professions which are subject to lawsuits based on claims of malpractice include lawyers, physicians, dentists, hospitals, accountants, architects, engineers and real estate brokers. In some states in order to file an action for malpractice against a medical caregiver, there must be a written demand or notice which gives the physician or hospital a chance to settle the matter before a suit is filed. In actions against attorneys it is mandatory that the plaintiff prove that the error, if any, caused damages. This means that a lawsuit, claim or negotiation the attorney was handling would have resulted in a win or better recovery except for the malpractice. Thus, there is a requirement of proving the original "case within the case" during the trial of the malpractice claim. Contrary to public perception, substantial judgments in malpractice actions are rare, with studies showing that only a small percentage of the claims result in recovery for the allegedly aggrieved client or patient. The principal reason is that most cries of malpractice are unfounded and are based on unhappiness with the result of the original services no matter how well handled, a breakdown in communication between attorney or doctor and client or patient, anger with the professional, retaliation for attempts to collect unpaid fees or greed.

See also: errors and omissions 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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