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The Special Duties Owed by Professionals


Generally speaking, people engaged in professional occupations in California must behave not only with the standard duty of care (that of acting like a reasonable person under the circumstances) but are held to the higher standard of a reasonable professional with the learning, skill, and knowledge commonly held by members of that profession.

This does not replace the other, lesser duty of care; professionals are also required to behave in a reasonable manner. However, in the case of professionals (acting in the scope of a professional endeavor) “reasonable” is defined in the context of the relevant profession.

In some cases, the duty of a professional extends beyond his or her clients. For example:

— Architects have a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect anyone who might foreseeably be injured by the architect’s negligence.

— Insurance brokers have a duty to exercise diligence and good judgment in obtaining the coverage a customer requests and desires.

— An attorney’s duty may even extend to non-clients in certain circumstances — for example, where a non-client is a foreseeable and anticipated beneficiary of the attorney’s services.

In many cases, professionals who hold themselves out as “experts” or claim a particular area of specialization or expertise may be held to a higher standard of care in that area than a professional who does not claim such special knowledge.

California has many special statutes governing specific professional duties. People engaged in professional activities (particularly licensed professions) should review and understand these duties clearly. Persons who hire professionals have a right to expect proper, competent assistance–and should consult an attorney promptly for an individual evaluation of their legal rights if the professional fails to act with proper care.

That said: not all professional mistakes or errors in judgment are a breach of legal duties. If you believe a professional acted improperly while representing you or working on your behalf, do not use this or any other online source to evaluate your potential claims. Consult an experienced attorney immediately.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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