What’s the Difference Between Negligence and Professional Negligence in Virginia?

By Peter DePaolis

You could have grounds for a civil claim in Virginia as the victim of any type of negligence. The state’s civil justice system allows injured victims to bring claims against defendants for causing or contributing to their losses. Recognizing the differences between negligence and professional negligence on a legal level, however, could help you bring the correct type of claim. It could also help you understand the unique rules your case might involve. Our Fairfax, VA personal injury lawyers are here to help you understand.

Standard Negligence

The definition of negligence remains the same regardless of the type. The legal definition of negligence is the failure to exercise a reasonable amount of care according to what a prudent person would do in like circumstances. Negligence is usually unintentional rather than referring to someone intentionally causing harm. Examples of negligence-related accidents include car crashes, slip and fall accidents, dog attacks, and defective product incidents.

A typical negligence claim involves the neglect or failure of a party to fulfill his or her duties of care owed to another party. For example, a driver might have breached a duty of care to a pedestrian if that driver was texting and driving. If one person’s breach of duty causes someone else’s injuries or property damages, the civil justice system allows the victim to hold the negligent party accountable for related financial losses.

Professional Negligence

Professional negligence involves the same definition of negligence as an ordinary case. However, the party guilty of the neglect or breach of duty must have been acting within a professional scope at the time of the incident. Professional negligence involves a legal or ethical violation by someone responsible for the plaintiff in a professional manner, such as a doctor, psychologist, accountant, financial advisor, IT professional, architect or lawyer. The professional in question must have breached the standards of care according to industry regulations or related laws, resulting in the plaintiff’s harm.

  • A doctor misdiagnosing or negligently failing to diagnose a patient.
  • A therapist breaching the right to patient-doctor confidentiality.
  • A financial advisor failing to act within the best interests of the client.
  • A hired professional providing substandard care or breaching a contract.
  • A mechanic failing to ensure the roadworthiness of a vehicle.
  • An accountant making a mistake on a client’s tax return.

Ordinary negligence refers to the neglect, default or recklessness of someone in the general public. Professional negligence occurs in business situations. Once a client hires a professional for his or her specialized skills, that professional owes the client specific standards of care according to industry regulations. Professional negligence is the breach of the standards of care as defined by the business relationship. Both types of negligence could give an injured victim the right to file a civil claim against the at-fault party in Virginia.

What to Do If You Suspect Negligence

If you have reason to believe any type of negligence, breach of duty of care or intent to harm caused your recent injuries or losses, contact a personal injury lawyer for a free legal consultation. Learning more about your situation from an attorney can give you advice you can trust. Your lawyer can tell you whether you have the elements of an ordinary negligence or professional negligence claim. Then, your lawyer can go about collecting evidence to prove your case. This may include testimony from subject-matter experts or documents supporting your claim to damages.

Next, your lawyer can bring your negligence claim with the correct courts in your county by Virginia’s deadline. Your deadline may vary from two years to five years after the incident depending on the type of claim. Contact a lawyer immediately upon suffering an injury or discovering proof of negligence to make sure you do not miss your time limit to file. You could obtain financial recovery from the negligent person, company or professional in Virginia if you file with a professional negligence lawyer’s assistance.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.