This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

Professional Negligence Cases Australia


Professional negligence is a failure by a professional to exercise reasonable care and skill when working with a client. Professional negligence claims can be made against many types of professionals, including medical professionals, lawyers, financial advisers and accountants. Professional negligence is an area of tort law. This article outlines professional negligence cases in Australia.

How do I claim professional negligence?

In order for a person to successfully make a claim against someone for professional negligence, they must show that the person owed them a duty of care, that they breached that duty and that the claimant suffered a loss or injury as a result.

A professional negligence claim must generally be made within six years of the cause of action arising. However, when a person is claiming personal injury as a result of professional negligence, a three-year limitation period applies.

What can I claim for?

A person bringing a professional negligence claim in Australia may seek compensation for financial losses, as well as the costs associated with fixing problems that flowed from the negligent act, legal costs and fees that were paid to the professional being sued.

Professional negligence cases against doctors

Medical professionals have a duty to take reasonable care of the safety and wellbeing of their patients. When medical professional breaches that duty, the patient may have a claim in professional negligence.

Medical negligence cases are generally very complex as courts will require evidence from medical specialists about the correct procedures and safeguards that should be taken in the course of providing particular medical treatments or carrying out particular procedures.

Professional negligence cases against lawyers

Lawyers have a duty to provide legal advice and represent clients with reasonable care and skill. A lawyer who fails to exercise reasonable care and skill may be found to have been negligent and may be subjected to disciplinary measures, such as losing their Practising Certificate temporarily or permanently.

The conduct of lawyers in regulated by legislation specific to different states and territories. This includes the Legal Profession Act 1987 and the Revised Professional Conduct and Practice Rules in New South Wales and the Legal Profession Act 2004 and the Legal Profession Regulations 2005 in Victoria.

A lawyer who fails to practise to a reasonable standard of competence and diligence may be found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct. Where a lawyer’s unsatisfactory conduct involves a substantial or consistent failure to maintain a reasonable standard of competence and diligence that would justify a finding that they are not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice.

If you are concerned about the way a lawyer has dealt with a matter, you can speak to them directly about it. You can also make a complaint to the Legal Services Commission in your state.

If you have suffered financial loss because of the actions of a lawyer, you should seek independent legal advice.

Professional negligence cases against accountants

Accountants are required to carry out their work in accordance with professional standards and are regulated by the Accounting Professional & Ethical Standards Board.

An accountant may be found to have been negligent if they owed you a duty of care, failed to do their job in accordance with professional standards and as a result, you suffered a financial loss.

An accountant may be found to have been negligent because they made accounting errors, gave incorrect advice, or gave advice based on their own personal interests.

Professional negligence cases against financial advisers

Financial advisers, broker and financial planners are required by law to exercise proper care and skill when providing services to their clients.

A person who is owed a duty of care by a financial advisor and suffers a financial loss because of the failure of the financial adviser, to exercise proper skill and care may have a cause of action in negligence.

A financial adviser may be found to have been negligent because they have:

  • Given advice without knowledge of the client’s personal circumstances;
  • Recommended unreasonably risky investments;
  • Failed to advise on the risk associated with an investment decision.

I have a professional negligence claim. What do I do now?

If you have a case in negligence against a professional, you should seek legal advice as early as possible. Be sure to keep any records of your correspondence with the professional including contracts, letters of advice and invoices.  As there are strict time limits that apply to commencing professional negligence cases in Australia, speak to one of Armstrong Legal’s lawyers today.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

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