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Professional Indemnity: Pro Bono/unpaid work

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Professional Indemnity: Pro Bono/unpaid work

Postby martincymru » Tue, 20 May 2014 9:35 am

Scenario:

Charity asked me to write a Report where accident happens at workplace. For example, construction worker falls down a hole, has no money to engage lawyer. Wants to sue (say) the Employer.

Am I liable for my Report? Do I need to take PI cover? If the answer to either is Yes then I will decline.

Btw: I am full time employee. The above is in private capacity.

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Postby Strong Eagle » Tue, 20 May 2014 9:50 am

It would all depend on whether your report is a finding of fact, or will also reach a judgment/conclusion.

If only a finding of fact, then I would not see an issue. Your facts may be disputed, you may be accused of leaving things out, or being biased, but as you reach no conclusion based on the facts, then there is little liability on your part.

But, if your report says, "Worker fell down a hole because employer was negligent in providing adequate safety equipment," your problem is not one of liability but of defamation. The employer can sue you, asserting that they have been defamed because of your charges, and under Singapore law, you must prove the truth of your statements. It could get expensive.

Note that stating, "safety barriers were not present around the hole" is a factual statement and could not be considered defamatory. The employer would have to prove you wrong... that safety barriers were present.

By "PI" I assume you mean professional indemnity insurance? Good luck in getting that for anything outside of any standard insurance.

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Postby martincymru » Tue, 20 May 2014 10:44 am

Yes, PI means professional indemnity insurance.

I suppose the acid test is "can anybody sue me?" If the answer is yes then I have a problem.

But if the Charity underwrite the Indemnity then possibly I am safe. I am waiting for their response.

They want me to draft a Report like an Expert Witness does. Therefore one can assume that my professional judgement/opinion is called for and not simply to relate the facts. On that basis I could expose myself.

Domestic helpers (another weak group) also have problems with unsafe housing where a Surveyor like me would like to offer legal/contract support.

If the weak people cannot get access to professionals like me at zero cost then they will remain vulnerable.

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Postby Beeroclock » Tue, 20 May 2014 10:51 am

martincymru wrote:Yes, PI means professional indemnity insurance.

I suppose the acid test is "can anybody sue me?" If the answer is yes then I have a problem.

But if the Charity underwrite the Indemnity then possibly I am safe. I am waiting for their response.

They want me to draft a Report like an Expert Witness does. Therefore one can assume that my professional judgement/opinion is called for and not simply to relate the facts. On that basis I could expose myself.

Domestic helpers (another weak group) also have problems with unsafe housing where a Surveyor like me would like to offer legal/contract support.

If the weak people cannot get access to professionals like me at zero cost then they will remain vulnerable.
I thought those reports are typically plastered with fineprint disclaimers, that it has been prepared with due care and in good faith but the writer accepts no liability etc etc. And that is even when the report has been paid for.

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Postby martincymru » Tue, 20 May 2014 2:40 pm

Legal seminar I attended dated 18th May 2014

"Expert Witness now liable for his Report". Quote by well respected Lawyer.

So that's it. All you professionals out there need to be careful. Even verbal advice can get you into trouble.

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Postby Beeroclock » Tue, 20 May 2014 3:26 pm

martincymru wrote:Legal seminar I attended dated 18th May 2014

"Expert Witness now liable for his Report". Quote by well respected Lawyer.

So that's it. All you professionals out there need to be careful. Even verbal advice can get you into trouble.

But this is a very general quote. I mean one could just as easily say "Any person is accountable/liable for his/her actions". The only way to avoid liability is not to do anything that cannot be insured ? The world will grind to a halt.

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Postby martincymru » Tue, 20 May 2014 3:33 pm

Fair point.

But often said your worst enemy is your client. Meaning they are the one mostly likely to sue you.


I work in dispute management and the larger enemy is often your own client, surprisingly.

Many professionals are more concerned with protection than an open business relationship. Sad today, but true.

You only need to be bitten once and you will appreciate what I am saying. If you have no insurance then they will come after your personal assets.

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Postby Beeroclock » Tue, 20 May 2014 3:51 pm

martincymru wrote:Fair point.

But often said your worst enemy is your client. Meaning they are the one mostly likely to sue you.


I work in dispute management and the larger enemy is often your own client, surprisingly.

Many professionals are more concerned with protection than an open business relationship. Sad today, but true.

You only need to be bitten once and you will appreciate what I am saying. If you have no insurance then they will come after your personal assets.

In those cases there will usually be a contractual agreement between yourself and client, and a fee charged in exchange for your services. This might give a much more solid basis for client to sue if they can show you have failed to perform or been negligent in duty.

In this case of pro bono work I would assume no contract, and therefore no contractual liability. However, you still might have issues such as defamation per Strong Eagle post, I guess you need to be a bit careful in your report writing.

I do understand the natural instinct to protect oneself first, but must say I find it a shame if people have to hold back from good causes due to legal risk concerns. Like the case of some offduty nurses/doctors not wanting to do CPR in public for fear of being sued, this is sad IMO....


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