Professional Negligence Claims
What Is Professional Negligence?
Many people will require the assistance of a professional adviser at some point in their personal or professional life. Whether you need advice on financial, legal or technical matters, a professional adviser can give you guidance to make an informed decision.
Most professional advisers provide a highly competent service. But unfortunately things can sometimes go wrong. Our solicitors can help you to take action and recover your losses.
It is not possible to claim against a professional adviser simply because you are unhappy with the service you have received.
Professional negligence occurs when the adviser has failed to perform their duties to the expected standards of their industry, resulting in a financial loss for their client.
How Do You Prove Professional Negligence?
In order to make a successful professional negligence claim, you will have to demonstrate that:
- you were owed a duty of care by the professional adviser
- they breached their duty of care
- the breach caused you to suffer a loss.
To prove your case you will need to provide evidence that the adviser’s services fell below the standards of a competent professional. You can do this by proving that:
- another experienced professional in their field would have offered better advice
- the adviser failed to meet the common standards of practice in their profession.
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may also be able to claim for breach of contract and/or statutory duty or even misrepresentation or fraud (in addition to your claim for professional negligence).
How Much Is A Professional Negligence Claim Worth?
Every professional negligence claim is unique. There are no standard figures.
But in general, damages are calculated from the date of the breach of the duty of care. This can be very straightforward, for example if a deadline has been missed, but it can also be very complex – such as calculating the value of a missed opportunity.
You will need to be able to prove that your financial losses are a direct result of the negligent actions of the professional adviser.
Depending on the circumstances of your claim, you may also be able to claim for:
- medical expenses
- travel expenses
- damage to property
- loss of quality of life
- loss of short-term or future earnings
- additional costs incurred as a result of the negligence.
Are There Any Time Limits For Making A Medical Negligence Claim?
As soon as you are aware that a professional’s services have been below standard you should seek legal advice to ensure that you can bring a claim within the legal time limits.
If your case needs to go to court, your claim must generally be brought within six years from the date of the negligence or the person against whom you are claiming will have a defence that the claim was issued out of time.
This time limit can be extended only when the negligence becomes apparent at a later date. You must then issue court proceedings within three years of the date you became aware of the facts which might give rise to a claim.
The longest possible time frame in which you can bring a claim is 15 years.
Who Can I Make A Professional Negligence Claim Against?
It is possible to claim against any person who has provided advice in a professional capacity and where that advice has led to a loss on the part of the client who acted upon that professional advice.
However, there are certain kinds of claims against professional advisers which we come across most frequently:
Accountants – may fail to submit tax returns or accounts on time – resulting in fines or interest payments.
Architects – may design plans poorly (which then need to be redrawn), provide inadequate project management resulting in escalating budgets, or recommend inadequate materials which need to be replaced.
Builders – may complete work to a poor standard or fail to complete work to an agreed timescale, leading to financial hardship for the claimant.
Financial advisers – may give unsuitable recommendations on pension structures, misrepresent or make inappropriate recommendations on an investment, or not declare that they are receiving commission for selling a certain product.
Insurance brokers – may recommend insurance that is not required or fail to place insurance, meaning that you are not insured when a loss occurs.
Medical professionals – may misdiagnose your condition (meaning you receive the incorrect treatment), diagnose a condition too late (leading to delayed treatment), make a mistake during surgery or fail to obtain informed consent for treatment. Find out more about medical negligence here.
Solicitors and legal advisers – may fail to properly check title documents (resulting in you not owning the entire property you thought you were buying), not advise well on a settlement offer, or not issue court proceedings in time (meaning the claim is lost).
Surveyors and valuers – may underestimate the cost of a project, overvalue a property before you buy it, or fail to report defects in a property.
How Can I Fund A Professional Negligence Claim?
Most clients choose to fund their claims privately, in which case we will charge our standard hourly rates. These will be agreed at the start of your case, and you will need to pay these fees regardless of the outcome of the claim. If your claim is unsuccessful, you will also become liable for the defendant’s costs.
In certain circumstances we may consider a 'no win, no fee' (Conditional Fee Agreement) funding arrangement to be appropriate, meaning our fees will be payable only if your claim is successful. We will recover the majority of the costs from the defendant. Please contact our disputes and litigation team to discuss your circumstances and how to fund your claim.
What Is The Professional Negligence Pre-Action Protocol?
The Pre-Action Protocol for Professional Negligence Claims came into force in July 2001. It applies to all professional negligence cases other than those against medical and construction professionals (where other specific protocols are applied).
This framework encourages the early exchange of information and alternative methods of dispute resolution, with the aim of settling disputes out of court wherever possible. Court proceedings should always be the last resort in professional negligence cases, in order to mitigate costs.
The protocol establishes the standards to be followed before court proceedings are started. When the protocol is not followed, the costs of making a claim can escalate rapidly.
The protocol is as follows:
- Preliminary Notice – the claimant decides there is a reasonable chance they will bring a claim and notifies the professional in writing.
- Letter of Claim – the claimant decides there are grounds for a claim and writes a detailed Letter of Claim to the professional.
- Letter of Acknowledgement – the defendant should acknowledge the Letter of Claim in writing within 21 days of receipt.
- Investigations – the professional has three months from the date of the Letter of Claim to investigate and respond.
- Letter of Response – the professional writes an open letter with a reasoned answer to the claimant’s allegations, making it clear if and how much of the claim they are admitting.
- Letter of Settlement – the professional writes a letter with a settlement proposal or identifies further information required in order to make a proposed settlement.
- Effect of Letter of Response and/or Letter of Settlement – if the professional denies the claim, does not offer a settlement, or will not enter into negotiations to resolve the claim within six months, the claimant can commence court proceedings.
Do I Have To Go To Court?
We will always aim to resolve professional negligence claims out of court by following the Pre-Action Protocol and offering alternative dispute resolution. The vast majority of cases can be settled without going to court.
Court proceedings will always be a last resort and will be required only if the defendant denies the claim, does not offer a settlement, or does not offer sufficient settlement for the severity of the claim.
Most claims take more than 12 months to reach a trial after court proceedings have been issued, though this will largely depend on the value and complexity of the case. You and other key witnesses will be called to give evidence.
Get Expert Legal Advice
Our disputes and litigation solicitors can help you bring a successful claim against a professional adviser who has caused you to suffer financial losses.
Request a call back to discuss the circumstances of your case.