You spent many years in college and graduate school to become an engineer. Unfortunately, one lawsuit can threaten your professional future and your financial security.
One engineering consultant who has testified as an expert witness in professional liability cases says that most lawsuits against engineers fall into one of three categories. Let's look at these.
The engineer didn't consult with anyone else.
That's a mistake that many engineers who are just starting out make. They find it too expensive to have another engineer look at their design. One solution is to work out an agreement with another small engineering firm to review each other's projects.
The engineer ignored frequent complaints and second-guessing by the clients.
If your clients seem to be continually unhappy, frustrated or confused about what you're doing -- no matter how hard you work to make them happy -- you could end up on the wrong end of a negligence lawsuit.
You can help avoid this problem by meeting with them to clarify the problem. Whether it lies with your design or there are simply communication issues, it's best to resolve these matters as soon as possible.
The engineer made a miscalculation.
You make a considerable number of complex calculations throughout your work on a project. Even one miscalculation can lead to a negligence lawsuit.
According to one attorney, "Most negligence claims against engineers fall into the categories of errors or omissions. Error, meaning that what was designed was wrong. Omission, meaning that the engineer failed to include something in their design." These can be minimized by -- as we noted above -- having another engineer review your design.
If you're in the process of starting your own engineering firm, professional liability insurance is essential. So is having the guidance of an attorney experienced in engineering law who can help you draft and review contracts before you do any work and help you if you find yourself on either side of a lawsuit.