How to Prove Professional Negligence: A short guide

Professional negligence is a scenario that arises when a professional fails to perform their duties to the required standard of care, resulting in harm or loss to their client. In England and Wales, proving professional negligence involves a structured approach using both statute and case law.

Pre Action Protocol for Professional Negligence

The professional negligence pre-action protocol is a fundamental starting point for anyone looking to bring a claim against a professional. This protocol aims to resolve issues without court proceedings, encouraging both parties to exchange information and understand each other’s stance.

It mandates the exchange of a detailed Letter of Claim and a Letter of Response, ideally leading to a settlement or mediation. Adherence to this protocol is crucial as failure to comply can have legal costs implications if the dispute progresses to court.

How to prove professional negligence: Breach of Duty

To prove professional negligence, the claimant must first establish that the professional owed them a duty of care. This duty arises when a professional undertakes work or provides advice upon which the client relies. Demonstrating a breach of this duty involves showing that the professional’s actions fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent individual in that profession.

How to prove professional negligence: Financial loss or damages

A key element in proving professional negligence is demonstrating that the breach of duty directly caused financial loss or damage. This causal link between the negligence and the loss suffered is critical. The claimant must provide evidence of the specific financial detriment they have experienced as a direct consequence of the professional’s actions.

Negligent advice

Often, claims of professional negligence arise from negligent advice. The claimant must prove that they relied on this advice and that this reliance resulted in them suffering loss. Whether through poor financial investment guidance from financial advisors or insurance brokers, or flawed legal counsel, the principle remains the same: the professional’s advice led directly to the claimant’s detriment.

Time limits and limitation period

Claims for professional negligence are subject to strict time limits, known as limitation periods. Generally, a claimant has six years from the date of the negligent act, or three years from the date they became aware of it, to bring a claim, whichever is later. This limitation period underscores the importance of acting swiftly when professional negligence is suspected.

Expert evidence

In proving professional negligence, expert evidence frequently plays a pivotal role. Expert witnesses in the same field as the defendant can provide insights into the standard of care expected, whether this standard was breached, and how the breach caused the claimant’s loss. This evidence is crucial in establishing the professional’s liability.

Breach of contract and professional negligence

While the focus of a professional negligence claim is on the breach of the duty of care, it often intersects with breach of contract. If the professional’s failure also constitutes a breach of the contractual terms agreed upon, this can strengthen the claimant’s case, providing another avenue for legal redress.

Court proceedings and bringing a claim

If pre-action negotiations fail, the claimant may proceed to court. Court proceedings involve a detailed examination of evidence, including expert testimony, to establish the duty of care, breach, causation, and loss. The process of bringing a claim to court is governed by strict procedural rules, and claimants must be prepared to substantiate their claims comprehensively.

Professional indemnity insurance

Professionals often hold professional indemnity insurance, which provides protection against claims of negligence. This insurance is particularly relevant in settlements, as insurers typically handle the negotiations and cover the compensation if the professional is found liable. Understanding the role and terms of such insurance is crucial in the context of professional negligence claims.

How to prove professional negligence: FAQs

What evidence is needed to demonstrate financial loss?

To demonstrate financial loss, you must provide clear and detailed evidence of the financial damages you have incurred as a result of the professional’s negligence. This can include invoices, receipts, financial statements, and expert assessments on the loss of earnings or additional costs incurred.

Can I make a professional negligence claim against any type of professional?

Professional negligence claims can be made against a wide range of professionals, including solicitors, accountants, architects, surveyors, engineers, and financial advisers, among others.

Essentially, any professional providing a service could potentially be subject to a negligence claim if they fail to meet the standards expected in their profession and cause harm or loss.

How does the concept of contributory negligence affect a professional negligence claim?


Contributory negligence refers to cases where the claimant themselves is found to have had some part in causing the harm or loss they suffered.

If contributory negligence is established, the compensation awarded to the claimant can be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault.

How can Expert Commercial Law assist?

The solicitors on our panel understand how to prove professional negligence and would be more than happy to assist on your case.

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; 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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