How to claim for professional negligence

What is Professional Negligence?

 

Professional negligence occurs when a professional fails to perform their duties to the required standard or provides negligent advice that results in a client suffering a financial loss.

Professional negligence can occur across various professions whenever a professional fails to meet the standards expected of them, leading to financial loss or damage to their clients. Below are some examples that illustrate how professional negligence might manifest in different sectors:

Legal Profession:

  • A solicitor fails to file a client’s legal documents by the required deadline, resulting in the client losing the chance to bring a claim against another party. The client suffers financial loss because they cannot recover damages they were likely entitled to.
  • Negligence: Failing to act in a timely manner, which is a breach of the duty of care the solicitor owes to their client.

Architecture and Construction:

 

Engineering:

  • Situation: An engineer approves the use of substandard materials in a construction project to reduce costs. The building later develops significant structural issues, requiring extensive repairs.
  • Negligence: Compromising on safety and industry standards, leading to financial loss and potential harm to the occupants.

 

What to consider before making a claim

Before initiating a claim, it’s crucial to comprehend what constitutes professional negligence. This situation arises when a professional—be it solicitors, accountants, architects, or insurance brokers—breaches their duty of care towards their client. The breach could stem from negligent advice or a failure to act in the client’s best interest, leading to financial loss. Recognising the signs of professional negligence is the first step in deciding whether to pursue a claim.

  • Financial Loss: Ascertain the financial loss incurred due to the professional’s negligence. This will help in determining the financial value of the claim.
  • Duty of Care: Establish that the professional owed you a duty of care and that their actions or inactions breached this duty.
  • Time Limit: Be mindful of the limitation periods for filing a professional negligence claim. Typically, you have six years from the date of the negligent act, but this can vary depending on the case’s specifics.

 

How to claim for professional negligence

 

The “Pre-Action Protocol for Professional Negligence” outlines the recommended procedures for resolving disputes before resorting to court proceedings.

It serves to encourage early settlement and reduce litigation costs. The protocol emphasises the importance of clear communication between the parties involved in the dispute, detailing the evidence required and the steps to resolve the matter efficiently.

Steps to make a professional negligence claim

If you wish to start a professional negligence claim, you should follow the steps below with the assistance of your solicitor.

  • Gather Evidence: Compile all relevant documents and evidence that substantiate your claim of negligence and financial loss.
  • Consult Professional Negligence Solicitors: Engage with specialist professional negligence lawyers. They can provide expert advice on the strength of your case and the best approach to take.
  • Send a Letter of Claim: Before initiating court proceedings, you must send a letter of claim to the professional accused of negligence. This letter outlines your claim, the evidence supporting it, and the financial loss suffered.
  • Response from the Professional: The professional has a set period (usually three months) to respond. They might accept the claim, offer a settlement, or refuse, giving the formal status of a defence.
  • Negotiation and Mediation: If possible, parties should attempt to resolve the dispute through negotiations or mediation. This can be more cost-effective and quicker than going to court.
  • Insurance Notification: The professional should inform their professional indemnity insurance provider about the claim. In some cases, the insurer may handle the claim on their behalf.
  • Court Proceedings: If an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to initiate court proceedings. This involves filing a claim with the court and preparing for a trial.
  • Choosing Adjudicators or Seeking a Nomination: For technical or highly specialized claims, it might be necessary to involve adjudicators or seek a nomination from professional bodies to ensure that the matter is assessed by experts in the relevant field.

How to claim for professional negligence – FAQs

 

What are the potential outcomes or remedies available if a professional negligence claim is successful?

The primary remedy in successful professional negligence claims is financial compensation. This aims to put the claimant back in the position they would have been in had the negligence not occurred. Compensation can cover direct financial losses, additional costs incurred, and sometimes loss of earnings.

In some cases, especially where financial compensation is not adequate, the court may order the professional to perform a specific act, such as completing a task they failed to finish or rectifying a mistake.

Although less common in professional negligence cases, an injunction may be granted to prevent the professional from continuing a harmful action or to compel them to take a specific action.

Sometimes, the claimant may also seek a formal apology as part of their settlement, although this is more about personal satisfaction than legal remedy.

How are the costs of pursuing a professional negligence claim handled, and who is responsible for these costs?

Initially, the claimant is typically responsible for their legal costs. However, many solicitors offer a “no win, no fee” arrangement, particularly in strong cases, where the solicitor’s fees are payable only if the claim is successful.

If the claim is successful, the court may order the professional (or their insurer) to pay most of the claimant’s legal costs. However, there might be some expenses that the claimant has to bear themselves.

Some claimants may have legal expenses insurance (as part of their home or car insurance policy) that covers the costs of pursuing a claim. Legal expenses insurance, known as after the event insurance, can also be purchased from an insurance broker at any point during a legal case.

What role does the professional’s indemnity insurance play in the claims process, and how might it affect the outcome of a claim?

Once notified, the professional’s indemnity insurance provider often takes over the management of the claim. They will assess the claim, decide on whether to settle or fight it, and negotiate with the claimant’s solicitors on the professional’s behalf.

Insurers are generally inclined to settle claims efficiently to avoid the costs and uncertainties of court proceedings. This can sometimes result in earlier and potentially more favourable settlement offers for claimants.

The coverage limits and exclusions of the professional’s insurance policy can affect the outcome of a claim. If the claim exceeds the policy limits or is not covered due to specific exclusions, the professional might have to pay out of pocket, impacting their willingness to settle.

How can Expert Commercial Law assist?

Our panel of solicitors have many years of experience in dealing with professional negligence disputes against professional advisors. We have dealt with cases involving professional negligence claims against solicitors, accountants, financial advisors, and much more.

We understand the complexities and emotional toll that come with making a professional negligence claim. Our panel of highly skilled and experienced law firms have a deep understanding of this area of law, and are dedicated to providing tailored and compassionate support to each of our clients.

Our commitment to excellence and our track record of successful outcomes are testament to our ability to deliver results. You can trust that our panel firms will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case, without the financial burden of upfront fees. Choose us for dedicated and experienced representation, and let us help you secure the compensation you deserve.

We only connect you with the best solicitors

All of the solicitors on our panel have the experience and expertise required to take on your case. Each solicitor is vetted before being allowed onto our panel and we only select the best in the business. All of our solicitor firms are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Please note we are not a law firm of solicitors; however, we maintain a panel of trusted and regulated legal experts. If you contact us in relation to a case, we will pass your case on to a panel firm in return for a fee from our panel firms. We will never charge you for passing on your case to a panel firm.

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Please note, we are not a firm of solicitors; however, we maintain a panel of trusted and regulated legal experts. If you contact us in relation to a commercial law case, we will pass your case onto a panel firm in return for a fee from our panel firms. We will never charge you for passing on your case to a panel firm. 

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