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Time Limits for Professional Negligence Claims

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If a professional fails to uphold their responsibilities or fulfil their duties, you may be entitled to bring a claim for professional negligence against them.

If you have suffered damage or loss financially as a result of negligence, the law enables such losses to be recoverable from the relevant professional.

However, it is important to consider that there is a time limit to pursue a claim for professional negligence, meaning you could be time-barred from bringing a claim if it falls outside of the relevant period.

The time limit (or limitation period) varies depending on the individual circumstances of the claim and when it became apparent that negligence may have occurred.

In this article, the legal team at Wilson Browne explains what the limitation period is for such claims and when you may be entitled to seek damages for the same.

Time Limits for Professional Negligence Claims

A professional negligence claim can be pursued when a professional has failed in their duties. The claim can be brought against anyone deemed to be a professional, such as a doctor or accountant if you believe they may have breached their contract with you, breached their duty of care, or failed to fulfil their professional duties and responsibilities.

If you have suffered loss as a result of the professional’s negligence, whether that be through personal harm or financial loss, you must bring your claim within the relevant limitation period.

There are generally three professional negligence limitation periods, each governing different timeframes within which you have the opportunity to bring a claim.

These are:

  • The primary limitation period
  • The secondary limitation period
  • The ‘longstop’ limitation period

Let’s take a closer look at these limitation periods in more detail.

The Primary Limitation Period for Professional Negligence Claims

The primary limitation period for professional negligence claims is six years. This means that any claims should be made against a professional within six years of the alleged negligence occurring.

For example, if you are of the opinion that an Accountant has given you poor advice on your last tax return and have been penalised by HMRC as a consequence, you would have six years to make a claim against the Accountant for any loss suffered.

It is always best to act as quickly as possible. While the above time limit does exist, the longer you leave a potential claim, the more likely that specific details about the events that occurred will become hazier to recollect.

The six-year time limit exists to help you make claims when new evidence arises later. It may not become clear until several years after that you have actually been given bad professional advice, in which case you’d still be entitled to make a claim within the six-year period.

The Secondary Limitation Period for Professional Negligence Claims

Additionally, there is a secondary limitation period for professional negligence claims. The law can be convoluted in this respect, so it is important to seek expert legal advice if you are unsure whether you remain within the relevant period.

It may transpire that you were given poor advice initially but may not have realised this until many years after the event. If new evidence arises after the initial six-year limitation period which results in you becoming aware of potential negligence, you may still be entitled to claim compensation for damages as a result.

If this is the case and you discover that you believe a professional has been negligent after the six-year limitation period has expired, you may have a further three years to make a claim from the date you became aware of the negligence.

This extends the initial limitation period and allows you to make claims beyond when the negligence occurred. Again, it’s important to make claims as soon as new evidence or knowledge arises to give your lawyers the best chance of filing a successful claim.

The ‘Longstop’ Limitation Period for Professional Negligence Claims

Despite the secondary limitation period allowing you to potentially make a claim beyond the initial six-year period, it is important to note that this can’t be applied indefinitely. There is also what lawyers like to call the ‘longstop’ limitation period for professional negligence claims.

The ‘longstop’ time limit for professional negligence claims is essentially an ultimate cut-off point. The ‘longstop’ is set at 15 years from the date the negligence occurred. If you discover that an accountant breached their contract 15 years ago or longer, then you are no longer able to bring a claim against them.

Who Can Be Classed as a Professional?

In addition to considering the time limit for professional negligence claims, it is important to consider who can be classed as a professional for the purposes of making a claim.

A professional is deemed to be a person who you have either employed or entered into a contract with to provide a service. They may have specific training or qualifications or could be a member of a professional governing body.

Professionals commonly include:

  • Accountants
  • Architects
  • Barristers
  • Financial advisors
  • Stockbrokers
  • Tax consultants
  • Surveyors

If you feel that a medical professional has been negligent in their duty of care towards you, then claims are pursued under a separate area of law-clinical/medical negligence. It is best to speak to a lawyer if you are unsure who counts as a professional and whether you can make a claim against them.

Contact Wilson Browne Today for More Advice on Professional Negligence Claims

The time limit for professional negligence claims can be confusing and it might be unclear whether or not you are eligible to make a claim for a past event. If you are unsure where you stand but believe that you have suffered loss as a result of professional negligence, the team at Wilson Browne are here to help.

With decades of legal experience, Wilson Browne’s solicitors can provide the advice you need to pursue a professional negligence claim. Contact our expert team of lawyers today on 0800 088 6004 to find out more.

Hannah Bayliss


Hannah Bayliss

Trainee Solicitor

Hannah is a Trainee Solicitor in the Commercial Property team in our Corby office. She previously gained experience working in the Commercial Litigation team and also during her University Placement in the Clinical Negligence team as a Paralegal.