Professional malpractice law deals with the negligence or misconduct of attorneys, doctors, accountants, and any other professional person. Professional malpractice occurs when a person practicing his or her profession improperly performs duties of that profession and as result a mistake is made or someone is injured. A professional malpractice suit can be brought against any type of professional including Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), architects, dentists, doctors, attorneys, engineers, psychologist, etc.
A typical accounting malpractice suit alleges that the professional defendant was negligent. Negligence is conduct that falls below a legally established standard of care that must be met in order to protect others from an unreasonable risk of harm. The plaintiff in an accounting malpractice suit must show that the negligent defendant violated a reasonable standard of care, which typically means the level of care that is the customary or usual practice of other members in the accounting profession. If, for example, an accountant fails to file a client's tax return on time, that accountant has, through his or her carelessness, violated a basic standard of care. Few malpractice claims in accounting are as clear as the example.
The plaintiff in an accounting malpractice case typically must establish four key elements in order to recover. The key elements are:
Finally, professionals typically have some type of professional standards that guide them in the course of performing their duties. The following are the CPA professional standards:
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