Professional Negligence FAQ’s
Learn a bit more about us with our frequently asked questions…
What is professional negligence?
Professional negligence is where a professional fails to perform his responsibilities to the required standard. This if often where a professional advisor, such as a solicitor, accountant or surveyor, gives incorrect or incomplete advice or fails to act, for example by missing a deadline.
Who can I claim against?
A claim for professional negligence can brought against any professional advisor but most the most common are claims against solicitors, barristers, conveyancers, surveyors, valuers, architects, builders, accountants, engineers, financial advisors, insurance brokers, will writers and local authorities.
How do I know if I have a claim?
Negligence is more than just bad service. In order for a claim to succeed it is necessary to show that the professional owed you a duty of care, that they breached their duty and that this caused you a loss. A professional advisor will usually owe a duty of care to their client. The standard is not one of perfection and the fact of an error does not necessarily constitute negligence. A professional will only breach their duty of care by making an error that no reasonable member of their profession, in their circumstances, would have made. Even then, a claim will only succeed if their actions or advice caused you a financial loss.
What can I do about poor service?
Most professional advisors will have their own complaints procedure or a complaint can be referred to a professional or trade body, such as the Legal Ombudsman for solicitors or barristers, the ICAEW for accountants or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for surveyors.
How much can I claim?
You can claim damages for any loss resulting from the negligent actions or advice. Damages assessed to put you in the position you would have been but for the negligence. This is found by comparing what your position would have been if there had been no negligence and your actual position. This can include any financial loss (including lost profit or additional costs), a reduction in value of property or other assets and, in some cases, damages for physical or psychological harm.
How do I bring a claim?
Contact us. We will take details about your claim. We will then assess your case and and talk to you about funding options. It may be necessary for us to obtain and review any files or other documents held by you or your professional advisor. We may also need obtain evidence from an expert (such as an accountant, surveyor or a medical expert) to assess the value of your claim. We will then be in a position to advise you on the merits of your claim and to agree a case plan.
Will I have to pay anything/what will it cost?
We will talk to you about costs at the outset and carry out a full risk assessment. In many cases, professional negligence claims can be funded by a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) (also known as a “no win, no fee” agreement). What this means is that you do not pay anything to us unless your claim is successful. If your claim is successful, most (but not all) of our costs are usually recoverable from the other side. Any shortfall and our “success fee” (an agreed percentage uplift) are deducted from your damages (up to an agreed cap). You can also take out after-the-event” or “ATE” legal expenses insurance against the risk of having to pay costs to the other side (and your own expenses) if your claim is unsuccessful and disbursement funding for expenses such as court fees and expert’s fees. Other flexible funding options are also available.
How long will my claim take?
It varies, but our aim is to settle your claim as soon as possible. In most cases the professional advisor (or their insurer) will have up to 3 months to consider, investigate and respond to a Letter of Claim, so some claims are settled within or shortly after this period. If the claim cannot be settled and is contested to trial, this could take 12-18 months or longer in exceptional cases.
Will I need to attend court?
Most claims are settled without the need for court proceedings to be issued and, of those that are not, the vast majority are settled before trial. But if a claim cannot be settled and is contested to trial, it is expected that you (as the claimant and a key witness) will attend court and give evidence at trial.
Are there any time limits?
Yes, in most cases a claim must be brought within 6 years from the date of the negligence. However, in cases where the negligence only becomes apparent at a later stage, this may be extended to 3 years from the date of knowledge of the facts which might give rise to the claim. There is a long-stop date of 15 years. After these limitation periods expire any claim will be statute barred and cannot be pursued. It is therefore important to seek legal advice quickly if you think you may have a claim for professional negligence.