Professional Negligence Claims

When entering into a contract with a professional we all expect to receive a high level of service. We do not expect to receive anything less than services of a reasonable standard, let alone services which are bad or incorrect. A reasonable service is expected to be received, performed with reasonable care, and as a professional, you should always expect to provide a reasonable service as an absolute bare minimum.

What do you do when you receive bad service, or you as a professional are accused of providing bad service, causing financial loss as a result? You should turn to a team of professionals you can trust to take care of your needs and provide you with the support and guidance you need to help resolve the issue in the best possible way. Contact our Dispute Resolution Team!

Who is liable as a professional?

When considering a claim for professional negligence, you should first consider if there is a person against whom a claim can be brought. This is complicated by the fact that there is no specific definition of ‘professional’, and the term generally includes those who profess to have a special skill, thereby attracting a duty to practice that skill in a proper manner. This can include professionals such as a financial adviser, accountant, solicitor, valuer or surveyor.

Who may bring a claim?

This question usually required very little consideration, as this is usually a question of identifying the person to whom the service was provided and was therefore owed the duty of care. Identifying the client is usually simply a question of reviewing the retainer letter, setting out the terms of the contract between the parties. Please be aware however that there are instances when claims may be brought against professionals by people other than the named client, or sometimes even by the other side in a transaction.

So what is professional negligence?

In basic terms professional negligence is where a professional person fails to perform their service to the standards required of them, causing their client to incur damage or loss as a consequence. Implied into every contract is an obligation that the professional will perform their job to a reasonable standard and with reasonable care, due to the professional’s implied duty of care. If the professional has not provided their services to a reasonable level of skill and care, or with the level of service or standard of work which could reasonably be expected from a professional working in those circumstances, then negligence has occurred and a claim may arise.

For example, if a solicitor provides you with incorrect legal advice and you suffer loss as a result, then you may be able to claim against the solicitor for damages. Another example, is where an accountant fails to file company accounts on time, causing fines to be incurred, then you may be able to claim damages for the fines you would otherwise not have incurred had the accounts been filed on time.

Professional Negligence Pre-Action Protocol

It is important to note that in 2001 a specific Pre-Action Protocol came into force, requiring certain steps to be taken in all professional negligence claims before litigation is commenced in the courts, where no other specific protocol applies. The Pre-Action Protocol is a set of rules which encourages all parties to consider resolving matters at an early stage without full court proceedings, by sharing information and using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. There are various ADR methods available for parties to consider, including adjudication, arbitration and the most popular, mediation.

Beware! The protocol sets out standards and certain steps which need to be followed before court proceedings are started, if a party wants to avoid sanctions being imposed by the court. The court may also hold proceedings whilst parties go back and comply with the protocol, if they have failed to adhere to it before commencing court action.

The aim of the Protocol is to ensure the resolution of professional disputes in a just, fair, proportionate and timely manner.

Too late?

If it is already too late and you have already suffered from professional negligence, or acted in a negligent way, our team of professional negligence solicitors can assist and guide you to help you build the strongest case, whilst ensuring compliance with the protocol.

Contact us today for more information.

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