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Professional Negligence

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Sometimes even professionals make mistakes.

We all need to rely on professional advice occasionally but even professionals can make mistakes: that’s when a specialist professional negligence solicitor is invaluable.

If you’ve suffered financial loss or personal damages because of incorrect advice or avoidable mistakes by a professional, then you could be entitled to make a claim for professional negligence.

You may have been the victim of professional negligence if a professional you’ve hired has failed in their duty of care towards you, their client.

If you’ve suffered because of negligence, then Wilson Browne’s expert legal team are ready to help you pursue a professional negligence claim.

Whether you’re making a claim as a business or in a private or personal capacity, our professional negligence solicitors are here to help.

Below, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about professional negligence claims.

What is professional negligence?

Professional negligence is when a professional that you have employed or contracted with to advise you or to work for you in any capacity fails to meet their responsibilities to the required or contracted standard, or if they breach their duty of care to you.

For there to be a claim you must have suffered either damage or financial loss.

Who is a “professional” for professional negligence purposes?

A professional is typically somebody like a:

  • solicitor,
  • accountant,
  • architect,
  • surveyor,
  • financial advisor,
  • quantity surveyor,
  • broker,
  • or anyone who has been through specific training.
  • Medical professionals are sometimes negligent but claims against them are dealt with separately, under a different area of law.

For details see our Medical Negligence section

How do I start a professional negligence claim?

To start a claim, our professional negligence solicitors first need to establish that your case will fulfil three basic criteria.  If we can establish these three important criteria, then it’s highly likely we can take your case to court and win. To start a claim, we need to establish the following:

  • You were owed a duty of care by a professional
  • A professional breached their duty of care towards you
  • You suffered damages or financial loss as a direct result of the professional’s breach of care towards you

How do I prove professional negligence?

To prove that professional negligence has occurred, you’ll often need access to evidence and witnesses that can be relied on in court. There are three major elements that need to be proven:

  1. Duty of Care: You can often prove that a professional had a duty of care towards you by producing contracts, written statements of work or witnesses who can verify verbal agreements.
  2. Breach of Duty: You can typically prove that a professional has broken their duty of care towards you by showing that they failed you professionally, that their work fell below industry standards, or that they provided false or untruthful advice or information.
  3. Damages: Finally, you have to prove that you suffered damages or financial loss as a direct result of professional negligence. It’s important that professional negligence solicitors can establish causation, and that your loss occurred because of the actions of the professional (and that they wouldn’t otherwise have occurred).

Do I need to have suffered a direct financial loss to make a claim?

Establishing damages is a complicated process, but there may be grounds to claim compensation if your career, character or reputation suffered as a result of professional negligence.

Professional negligence solicitors can help you to determine what damages you may claim, and how much.

How much can I claim for professional negligence?

You cannot bring a claim for professional negligence if you have not lost anything, or nothing has been damaged. You can bring a complaint which is a very separate process.

The amount of your claim will be directly impacted by the amount which you feel you have lost, or the amount that it might take to put right some damage.

We would suggest that you contact us so we can properly advise you. Not everything you may feel you have lost may be included in a claim.

How long does a professional negligence claim take?

The length of time it takes for a professional negligence claim to be made depends on a number of factors. These include the complexity of the case, the availability of evidence and witnesses, the delaying tactics of the defendant, and more.

It’s difficult to give an exact timeframe, but it’s advisable to expect a case to last at least 12 months before it’s even heard in court.

If you are pursuing a professional negligence claim, then be prepared for the potentially long period of time it takes to achieve a successful outcome.

Which courts oversee professional negligence claims?

In the UK, it’s most common for civil cases of professional negligence to be heard in the Business and Property Courts.

This may vary depending on the type of case being brought about (whether or not it’s civil, for example), as well as other factors.

Professional negligence solicitors can provide more information once they know more details about your particular case.

Can professional negligence claims be settled outside the court?

Professional negligence claims may not even make it to court. If a case is heard by the courts, then the losing party is often liable for court costs, in addition to any damages they are ordered to pay. For this reason, individuals or organisations may seek to limit their costs by seeking an out-of-court settlement, saving all parties involved time and money.

Professional negligence solicitors may arbitrate out-of-court settlements, reaching a mutually agreeable settlement between two parties that sees the victim paid damages. In exchange, the victim may have to abide by certain terms stipulated by the defendant.

What are examples of professional negligence?

Professional negligence comes in a variety of forms. It’s important to note that there’s a big distinction between receiving bad service from a professional and being the victim of professional negligence. If you’re in doubt, then professional negligence solicitors can offer advice and further information.

Over the past decade, our team of professional negligence solicitors have helped clients make professional negligence claims after receiving incorrect or poor advice from accountants, architects, barristers, surveyors, financial advisers, tax consultants, engineers, solicitors and insurance brokers.

Common examples of professional negligence typically include:

  • Failing to abide by the terms of a contract
  • Providing incorrect information or advice, leading to loss
  • Providing untruthful information or acting unfaithfully
  • Failing to abide by laws or industry regulations
  • Acting in such a way as to put you or others in danger
  • Providing poor business strategy recommendations
  • Failing to advise about tax relief available
  • Failing to identify serious structural problems with a property
  • Breach of confidentiality

Real-world examples of professional negligence will vary depending on the profession. For example, a barrister may provide incorrect legal advice, leading to you losing a court case.

This could be construed as professional negligence. An architect may produce inaccurate schematics of a new building, leading to your company suffering a financial loss in order to make the building safe. You may be able to sue and claim damages for the inaccuracy.

Do I need to attend court?

Clients are often worried or nervous about attending court in person. Evidence is an essential element of any claim. Therefore, should matters proceed to a court hearing, you will be required to attend in order to provide evidence against the defendant.

Willingness to appear in court demonstrates that you care strongly about your claim. Our professional negligence solicitors will be there every step of the way to help you through the process. We’ll explain court etiquette, provide helpful tips on speaking in court, and assist you in any way that we can.

Often however, professional negligence solicitors are successful in arbitrating out-of-court settlements before a case reaches a court. This saves everyone involved time and money.

Can I sue my solicitor or barrister?

Sometimes things can and do go wrong. Not everything that goes wrong gives rise to a claim for negligence and you may have a claim for poor service instead.

However, you are entitled to rely on a solicitor or barrister that you instruct to exercise a high standard of skill and care when they advise you. If they fail to do that or breach their contract with you then, if you suffer a loss or other damage, you can bring a claim against them to try to recover those losses.

Can I sue my solicitor for getting a Will wrong? or Can I sue my solicitor for preparing my Will incorrectly?

If a solicitor does not prepare a will that reflects someone’s wishes, make sure that it is signed properly or has not checked how a property/home is owned then it may be possible for future disappointed beneficiaries to bring a claim for what they should have been left.

Can I sue a solicitor who has acted for me in a litigation case already?

If your litigation solicitor has not advised you about costs properly, missed an important date (a “limitation date”), missed a court deadline or failed to comply with a court order and you have suffered a loss then you may be able to bring a claim.

Can I sue my property surveyor for negligence?

If your surveyor only provided a mortgage valuation these cases are normally very difficult unless the claim was specifically in relation to the mortgage, contact us to discuss in more detail.

The most common claims for negligence are brought in relation to full structural surveys when the surveyor had, or ought to have had, access to the greatest level of information.

In terms of valuation if the surveyor has given a valuation of perhaps more than 10-15% difference to the actual valuation then you may be able to make a claim.

If you consider that the surveyor has “missed something” then again if you have suffered loss or damage as a result or relied on his or her advice either way then it may be possible for you to bring a claim for professional negligence.

Contact us to discuss.

Can I sue my architect for professional negligence?

Claims against architects can be complicated and an early question that we will have is to try to clarify what the architect’s role and responsibilities were in relation to any particular project.

If they have failed to comply with necessary building regulations or to manage a project effectively and in line with their agreement you may be able to bring a claim, just as you may if they have failed to obtain sufficient planning permission or advise you properly in relation to drawings, plans etc. that they may have prepared or supervised.

Can I sue my mortgage broker, insurance broker or financial advisor for negligence?

Clients are often encouraged to bring a compliant first, especially in relation to those professionals regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which publishes a Code of Conduct that (for example) all financial advisors should abide by.

A compliant can also be made to the Financial Services Ombudsman, who can award up to £150,000.00.

Remember that you need a loss that you can demonstrate to bring a claim and that is not the same as the value of an investment decreasing when it was one of those investments that “could go up as well as down”.

We would need to highlight something they did wrong to cause your loss that you would not have suffered had they performed their duties properly.

Can I sue my accountant for negligence?

As with other professionals things can and do go wrong and whilst accountants have a governing body, we will be able to bring a claim for professional negligence if you are not satisfied with the outcome of any compliant, as long as there has been a loss and their negligence has caused that loss.

Remember that a question of poor service is not the same as something that might amount to a professional negligence claim against your accountant.

How long do I have to bring a professional negligence claim and/or what is the time limit?

The law around what lawyers call “limitation periods” can be complicated, but a short rule of thumb is that the limitation period for a professional negligence claim is 6 years from the alleged failure or poor advice.

Sometimes you are able to extend that period, for example if it took more than 6 years for you to find out about that negligent advice and in those cases you could be looking at having 3 years from that date to bring the case.

There are other periods, including a “longstop” date after which, regardless of whether you knew about it or not, you will not ordinarily be able to bring a claim. This is a technical area of law and you should speak to one of our team to clarify any issues if you are in any way concerned.

Do you offer no win - no fee?

We offer a no win- no fee arrangement. This is a Conditional Fee Arrangement (“CFA”) with your legal team to assist you with funding your litigation.

The purpose of the CFA is to have a separate funding arrangement in place so that instead of paying your Solicitor’s legal fees as you go, these are deferred and only become payable at a later date if you win your claim.

Should you lose your claim you will not need to pay your legal team’s fees. However, there is a still a financial risk in respect of your opponent’s costs and other costs as your case progresses.

Further information regarding this can be found on our Litigation Funding page

Before you read any further there is one simple consideration: claims under £10,000.00 typically fall within the Small Claims Track of the County Court and therefore costs would not be recoverable in any event.

If you need to sue a professional our legal experts can help if you need to consider bringing a claim against:

  • Solicitors
  • Accountants
  • Surveyors
  • Financial Advisors
  • Architects
  • Other professionals

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The prospect of suing a professional can be daunting but if you’ve been let-down there is always the option to sue, to ensure that you do not end-up disadvantaged.

We’ll help you determine whether or not you have a claim. We have clients nationwide and in many cases face-to-face meetings are not required.

Once again you have concluded our legal problem, thank you. You have consistently treated us with care and kind consideration, all carried out with good humour in the most professional manner; a rare thing! I have no hesitation in commending your company and your delightful members of staff and your good self.

We have an excellent track record in negotiating early settlements in cases such as these and, whatever the issue, you can be confident that our team will advise you on the best way forward.

Many of our lawyers are members of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association, to which only a handful of lawyers in the county belong.

We will be happy to consider cases for initial assessment on a no obligation, no charge, basis and offer funding options, which may include the use of legal expenses, insurance policies, private funding, a conditional fee agreement or a damages based agreement. We hold delegated authority from Temple Legal Protection Limited to make sure that cases on a No-Win-No-Fee are fully insured. Find out more about how we work with Temple Legal Protection here

It’s a shame when things go wrong  – our Professional Negligence solicitors ensure that it’s not you who has to pay for someone else’s mistake. Call us today.