Professional negligence is a difficult concept to define as it covers a diverse range of areas of expertise and a large number of different scenarios. Essentially, professional negligence occurs where someone who has represented themselves as an expert in a certain field acts negligently – i.e. below the standard you would expect from someone holding themselves out as an expert.
This is a typical example of professional negligence. A solicitor, who represents himself as having expertise in the field of law, is employed to handle a personal injury claim. The solicitor then fails to advise his client of the time limitations involved in bringing a personal injury claim and, as a result, having missed the time limit, the client cannot pursue a claim for compensation. Here, the solicitor’s negligence has lead to the client incurring a financial loss as they won’t be able to recover the personal injury compensation they were entitled to. In these circumstances there would be a very strong professional negligence claim.
Further examples of professional negligence include;
• A surveyor failing to detect problems, such as subsidence, before the purchase of a property resulting in substantial rectification costs for the new owner.
• Accountants and tax advisors missing deadlines or advising on tax schemes which fail.
• A financial advisor misrepresenting the facts surrounding an investment, so the client bases a decision on incorrect information, and loses money as a result.
• A surveyor undervaluing a property before sale, leading to a loss on the part of the seller.
• A solicitor drafting a document incorrectly, failing to register the legal title of a property or missing a deadline which results in the client losing money.
Professional Negligence Law
Professional Negligence claims are made on the basis that those professionals who represent themselves as experts in a certain field have a ‘duty of care’ towards their clients. This means that they must always act professionally and in their clients' best interests. If this duty of care has been breached through act or omission and the client has suffered a financial loss, it may be possible to make a professional negligence claim.
It’s important to remember that ‘experts’ in the above sense of the word, are generally required to take out professional indemnity, or liability insurance. This means that where negligence claims are successful, the client’s financial loss and legal fees are usually recovered from the insurance company.
Professional Negligence and your rights
If you find yourself in this position, having suffered a financial loss as a result of professional negligence, you may be entitled to make a professional negligence claim to recover the money lost. Seeking legal advice on making a professional negligence claim can seem like a daunting prospect (especially if your claim is related to solicitor negligence).
However, there are specialist organisations that can help you to understand whether you have a claim and refer you to a specialist solicitor who may be able to handle your case on a no win no fee basis.
No Win No Fee means that if your case is unsuccessful, you will generally not be responsible for your solicitor's costs. If your claim is successful, you can usually recover legal costs from your opponent.
Generally, to be eligible to make a professional negligence claim, you must have suffered a financial loss within the last six years.