Professional negligenceFrequently Asked Questions
Any professional who you instruct to provide a service or give you advice owes you a duty of care to provide that service or advice in a reasonably competent manner. If the advice or service that you receive falls below a reasonable standard, and because of that failing, you suffer a loss then you may be entitled to claim compensation from them or their indemnity insurer. This type of claim is called a professional negligence claim.
The professional must do more than just give you the wrong advice, the professional must be negligent. The standard of advice that is given must be equivalent to the standard of advice that you would receive from a reasonably competent professional of the same level of experience and qualification.
Further, it is not enough to have just received negligent advice or a negligent service, you must suffer a loss as a direct consequence of negligent advice.
These are common types of professional negligence claim:
- You instructed a solicitor to purchase a property. The solicitor did not advise you that the property was subject to a restrictive covenant and the property is devalued. A reasonably competent solicitor would not have made the same error. You have a claim against the solicitor for compensation.
- Your accountant failed to submit your annual tax returns and you have incurred penalty charges. A reasonably competent accountant would ensure that the tax returns were filed on time. You have a claim for compensation against the accountant.
- You instructed a surveyor to survey a property before you purchased it. The survey failed to identify major subsidence and a couple of years after you moved in, the front wall started crumbling. The wall cannot be repaired without extensive work and you need to move out of the property whilst the repairs are being completed. A reasonably competent surveyor would have spotted the subsidence. You have a claim against the surveyor for compensation.
The first step will be send a detailed letter of claim setting out both full details of the negligence and full details of the loss that has been suffered. The letter should include copies of relevant documents that you have and any documents that you want the professional to provide.
There is a professional negligence pre-action protocol that parties to a professional negligence claim are expected to follow. Failure to observe the pre-action protocol may result in costs consequences. The protocol sets out the information that should be included in the letter of claim. The protocol requires a claimant to give the defendant 3 months to investigate and respond to the letter of claim.
The professional will usually instruct their indemnity insurer that a claim has been threatened and the insurer will usually take over conduct of the claim.
After the pre-action protocol has been completed you may commence court proceedings.
The amount of compensation will depend on the nature of the negligence and the losses that have been caused by it. You will only be able to recover compensation for losses that were reasonably foreseeable.
Reasonably foreseeable means that it is something that should be anticipated as a likely consequence of an action.
Any claim should be commenced within 6 years of the date that the negligence took place. If you do not start proceedings within six years then the other party will have a defence under the provisions of the Limitation Act 1980.
However, if the negligent act was something that was not immediately apparent then you may have an additional three year period in which to commence a claim. The three year period will run from the date that you discover the negligence.
The cost of legal assistance with a claim of this nature will vary depending on several factors, such as how much paperwork there is, how many witnesses there are and the nature of the losses that you have suffered. At Start Point Law we charge £500 initial fixed fee. The fee will cover the initial meeting with you to discuss your concerns, and we will make initial enquiries with other parties, obtain copies of relevant documents, identify witnesses, and value the claim as far as possible at this initial stage. We will prepare a detailed letter of advice which will set out our advice, the likely overall costs of the claim, how likely it is that your claim will succeed and the estimated timescales.