Knowledge Base

Professional Negligence

When a client engages a professional to carry out specific tasks for them that they do not have the expertise to carry out themselves, the professional is expected to uphold a high standard and duty of care to the client. In cases where a professional’s work or advice is not up to the standard expected or has acted in a negligent manner and the client ultimately suffers a loss as a result, the client may be entitled to make a claim against the professional.

How to Prove Professional Negligence?

Generally, to prove professional negligence it must be shown that the standard of work the client received non-acceptable. In addition the client suffered a loss due to the professional acting on their behalf.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the legal time limit that a person has to bring a claim forward. In the case of professional negligence, the legal time limit is usually 6 years. However, this time limit does vary depending on the complaint that a client has against a professional. It is advisable to speak with a solicitor to discuss your situation. Once this is done they can help you in calculating when the clock stops on your case. Any claims that are brought forward after the time limit has run out will be considered ‘statute barred’. This means that legal proceedings can no longer be brought forward.

Professional Negligence and Solicitors

There is a certain standard of care expected of a solicitor towards their clients. For many clients, it is their first time in a legal situation where they need the help of a solicitor and they are placing their trust in them to ensure the desired outcome for their case. Therefore, when a solicitor doesn’t hold the clients best interest at heart it can be damaging on a financial level. In addition it can be damaging on an emotional and/or physical level. The following are some of the ways in which a solicitor can be held liable for professional negligence:

  • Breaches of the rules of the legal profession
  • Overcharging / Excessive Fees
  • Providing incorrect legal advice
  • Failing to give legal advice
  • Failure to follow instructions
  • Bring a case forward to the wrong court
  • Issuing court proceedings to the wrong person
  • Missing a legal deadline/failure to issue court proceedings on time
  • Proceeding to act for a client when the solicitor’s interests conflict with that of the client
  • Negligent delays in case management
  • Fraud
  • Delays in the exchange of contracts
  • Losing important documents
  • Unauthorised use of a client’s cash
  • Failing to keep proper accounts

Examples of Solicitor Malpractice

Personal Injury*

A personal injury solicitor may be held liable for negligence in cases where they have caused unnecessary delays in a person’s claim leading to the claim to be statute barred. This means ignoring the personal injury claim time limit. In cases where they have advised a person to settle a claim for much lower than what the claim is actually worth to the client.

Litigation

A solicitor may be held liable in cases where they have failed to carry out court procedures, meet court dates or fail to follow instruction leading to the client’s case being lost.

Wills and Probate

A wills and probate solicitor may be held liable in cases where they make a will that does not coincide with the clients wishes and a loss occurs.

Conveyancing

A conveyancing solicitor may be held liable for negligence when they are buying or selling a property and makes a mistake when dealing with a property transaction such as losing title deeds or other mistakes that cause a delay in the transaction leading to a loss for the client.

Commercial

A commercial solicitor dealing with a business as a client may be held liable for negligence in cases where they have failed to notice a clause in a contract that will negatively affect the client leading to a loss or if they fail to advise a client correctly in a business transaction or business deal which leads to a loss for the client. In debt recovery, a solicitor may be held liable if they issue legal proceedings and serve the wrong person with a summons leading to delays and losses for the client.