Professional liability: Contact a Lawyer Early When Faced with an APEGA Investigation
Alberta’s engineers and geoscientists are regulated by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta. All members and permit holders become subject to the Engineering and Geoscience Professsions Act, its Regulations, Code of Ethics, General Regulations and applicable Practice Standards and Guidelines.
APEGA is self-regulated. This means that when complaints against members arise, the association investigates them, conducts the discliplinary process, and manages any appeals.
When APEGA receives a complaint, the member or permit holder is notified. They are then compelled to produce any evidence related to the complaint and to cooperate with the investigation. Interviews may be conducted by the investigations staff, which also gathers evidence for the investigative panel.
Once everything is reviewed, the panel sends its conclusions and recommendations to the investigative committee. The committee then has three primary options. It can terminate the claim due to a lack of evidence or terminate it because it is frivolous. If the committee believes the claim has merit, it could then forward it on to the APEGA discipline committee, which will schedule a hearing to determine what discipline, if any, is appropriate.
The public may attend the hearing and findings are published. Therefore, there are potential reputational risks as well.
Sometimes, members will decide to admit certain allegatoins and accept a mutually acceptable penalty, rather than incur the risks and costs of a hearing.
Complaints are often intertwined with lawsuits involving the same subject matter. Contractual and insurance issues often come into play as well.
It is therefore important that an Alberta engineer or geoscientist facing the prospect of a disciplinary hearing consider all of the potential options, potiential outcomes, and implications when faced with a complaint. Engaging a lawyer experienced in professional complaints and professional liability claims early in the process could prove invaluable when these situations arise.