Mistakes can happen in any situation, but when you have entrusted a solicitor with a legal matter, mistakes can lead to you suffering a loss. If a solicitor’s action, or inaction, has caused you financial loss or reduced an anticipated financial gain, you can bring a claim against them to compensate you for this. Such claims are referred to as a professional negligence claims.
Professional negligence is different from poor service. Examples of poor service might be slow progress or a lack of communication – not what you look for when paying for any service, but not as severe as professional negligence.
Professional negligence is the significant failure of your solicitor to meet the very standards of expertise for which you engaged them. If this failure results in you incurring losses, you are legally entitled to compensation.
Situations where a solicitor’s conduct could give rise to a professional negligence claim include:
- Missing a key deadline in a court case
- Giving you bad or careless advice
- Not taking, or incorrectly following, your instructions in a crucial aspect of the case
- Making errors when preparing a will or administering an estate
- Incorrectly dealing with the purchase, sale, or lease of a property, in a way which affects your legal rights
- Under-settling a claim for compensation, such as a personal injury claim
- Conducting a court case poorly, resulting in the case being struck out
- Missing a visa deadline or making another mistake in your immigration case
Making a Professional Negligence Claim
Solicitors owe their clients a duty of care and must always act in their clients’ best interests. So, for a professional negligence claim against your solicitor to succeed, you must prove that they failed in their duty of care towards you. This can be done by establishing that your solicitor failed to meet the professional standards required of them. Regardless of their experience, this standard is that of a reasonably competent practitioner. If the solicitor is, or claims to be, a specialist in the area of law in question, they will instead be held to the standard of a reasonably competent specialist practitioner in that area of law.
If it can be proved that your solicitor breached their duty of care, it must then be shown that:
- you suffered a loss; and
- this loss was caused by your solicitor breaching their duty
To illustrate all of this, imagine you suffered a personal injury and are making a claim. Your solicitor is careless and overlooks important information in your medical report. As a result, he values your injury claim at £2,000, whereas if he had carefully considered all of the information available to him, he would have valued it at £5,000. Your solicitor has now breached his duty of care towards you; his actions have fallen below the standard of a reasonably competent solicitor. He then advises you to settle your claim for this £2,000 sum and you, understandably, rely upon his advice. His carelessness in reading the medical report has now caused you a loss. Through no fault of your own, you have settled your case for £3,000 less than its actual value. You relied on your solicitor to act in your best interests and he let you down.
Time Limits to Making a Claim
As with all claims, a time limit applies. You must begin your claim within 6 years of the professional negligence in question. This, however, can be lengthened if you were unaware of the negligence at the time it occurred and only discovered it at a later date. A number of rules may operate to change the time limit which applies in your case. Therefore, if you are thinking of bringing a professional negligence claim, or are worried that you may have left matters too long, contact us as soon as possible so that we can advise you on where you stand.
Funding a Professional Negligence Claim
If you have been the victim of professional negligence, it is understandable to be reluctant about embarking on any new legal matters. At Truth Legal, we recognise this and offer a range of funding options. By doing so, we aim to give you peace of mind and to limit the possibility of you incurring any further expenses. We are often able to conduct matters on the basis of a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement, where, in the vast majority of situations, you do not have to pay our fees if we are unsuccessful in recovering compensation for you.
If you have any concerns about this side of making a professional negligence claim, we are more than willing to discuss matters with you in more depth.
Other Professional Negligence Claims
It does not have to be a solicitor who was negligent in order to bring a claim. Many firms employ paralegals or other kinds of lawyer to handle cases on a day-to-day basis, usually under the supervision of a solicitor. The terms ‘paralegal’ and ‘lawyer’ are broad and do not automatically denote any particular level of qualification. Nonetheless, if they have been negligent in their professional duties and you have suffered a loss as a result, you may still bring a claim for professional negligence.
Similarly, professional negligence claims can be brought against many different types of professional working in all kinds of fields: doctors, accountants, and financial advisors are just a few examples. In general, any professional upon whose expertise you rely could be subject to a professional negligence claim, provided the criteria outlined above are met.
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If you have suffered financial losses as a result of your solicitor’s negligence, Truth Legal can act on your behalf to achieve a just outcome for you.
Whilst our head office is in Harrogate, Truth Legal also has virtual offices in Manchester and London. We are more than willing to sit down with you for a free, no-obligation consultation and discuss any ways in which we can help you.
You can get in touch either by telephone on 01423 788 538 or by emailing us at [email protected]