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21 May 2021

Do I have a professional negligence claim?

4 mins

Negligent advice or services from professionals can have devastating consequences. Below we answer a number of frequently asked questions in relation to professional negligence, to help you understand if you have a claim against a professional.

What is professional negligence?

Professional negligence occurs when a professional fails to perform to the standard of a competent professional in the same field. Such a failure could amount to a breach of contract or a breach of duty of care. The other necessary ingredients for a claim are that the professional’s failure caused you a loss, and that you can prove the loss.

Professional negligence can include:

  • If a solicitor misses a court deadline, resulting in your claim being struck out, or you having to pay additional costs;
  • if you pay a surveyor to inspect your property prior to a purchase, and the surveyor fails to identify a significant defect in the property.

Who can I bring a claim against?

You can bring a claim against any professional who has caused you loss by not acting reasonably, competently, or below the standard to be expected of the profession. Most professionals have professional indemnity insurance so are insured against such claims.

You can bring a claim against barristers, architects, surveyors and valuers, accountants and tax advisers, insurance brokers and immigration advisers.

The above is not an exhaustive list but is a list of the most common professions.

What do I have to prove?

To establish a successful professional negligence claim, you will need to prove the following:

1. Duty of Care
You must prove that the professional owed you a duty of care. This could be evidenced in a contract between you and the professional, or implied by the nature of the relationship.
2. Breach of the above Duty
You must prove that the service provided by the professional fell below the standard of a reasonably competent professional and that there was a breach of the duty of care.
3. Causation
The breach must have directly caused the loss.
4. Loss
You will need to provide evidence of your loss and prove that it was caused by the breach and not some other problem; if the damage would have occurred in any event, you may not have a claim.

How much can I claim?

This will depend on the circumstances of your case.

The loss can be easy to calculate if, for example, an accountant calculates your tax incorrectly and you have to pay a penalty.

A more complicated example would be if you lose the opportunity to pursue a claim. In that scenario, a court would have to assess your prospects of success in the original action.

What funding is available?

We consider funding options on a case-by-case basis. We can sometimes act under a conditional fee arrangement (“no win, no fee”) if you cannot fund your case privately or if you do not have legal expenses insurance.

Please see our funding page for further details.

How long do I have to bring a claim?

The primary time limit is six years from the date of the negligence or when the cause of action arose.

If you did not become aware of the negligence until a later date, then the primary time limit can be extended by three years from when you became aware, but it is important to notify a claim as soon as possible.

You should therefore get advice as soon as you can, if you think you may have a claim.

If you think you have a claim it is important that you get advice quickly. The courts now encourage the settlement of claims by mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution at an early stage, so there is a good chance that your claim will settle without the requirement for formal proceedings.

If you have any questions that this page does not cover, please contact our specialist solicitors here.

Tatiana Dall, Paralegal in our Professional Negligence team, contributed to this article. 

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