Professional Negligence

There are times in everyone’s life when professional advice must be sought. Whether you have financial concerns, legal problems or a technical issue which needs to be resolved, approaching a professional in the field could be the solution to give you the guidance that you need.

At least, that should be the case.

However, occasionally, careless or poor advice can lead to severe consequences which could range from missed opportunities or lost time to lost money. Poor advice in the legal sphere is called “professional negligence” and anyone who falls prey to it may be able to make a claim for compensation.

What Is The Definition Of Professional Negligence?

The most common definition used for negligence is “failure to act, or conduct which breaches a duty of care”. Professional negligence arises if someone who professes to have a specific skill, for example a teacher, vet, solicitor, accountant or doctor fails to offer appropriate advice or to exhibit appropriate duty of care. When you visit a specialist to take specific advice, when that advice is given, the professional owes a duty of care in its provision. There are, however, limits in the form of exclusions in that duty of care depending on the type of advice that is given. For example, if an accountant has agreed to offer advice on a specific element of the tax affairs of a company it may not accept duty of care for other areas of the business’ tax affairs.

There are, therefore, a number of elements which must be proven in order to be able to claim compensation for professional negligence including:

  • A duty must be owed
  • The action, or lack of it, must be below that standard which would be expected from any competent equivalent person
  • The breach of duty must result in a loss of some form, whether financial or physical damage to property or persons
    Am I Able To Make A Claim For Professional Negligence?

Whenever you consult with a professional you have a right to expect that individual to handle your case skilfully and carefully. While it would be unreasonable to expect a professional in any field to offer entirely perfect advice in every single case, you could have a case for professional negligence if you believe that the professional advice which you have been given was exceptionally poor on either of these grounds:

  • If you are able to prove that other experienced professionals within an identical field would offer different advice.
  • If you are able to prove the advisor did not hold up the standards of practice within their specific field.
    Frequently, claims for professional negligence happen once a professional has offered advice on a matter which was out of their realm of expertise, or alternatively, hand over the case to one of their colleagues who lacks the experience and knowledge to handle the matter appropriately.

What Types Of Professionals Could Be Subject To A Professional Negligence Claim?

The term “professional” refers to anyone who is believed to have specific skills and expertise within their sector or industry. Claims can therefore be brought against a wide range of professionals including, but not limited to:

• Barristers
• Solicitors
• Builders
• Surveyors
• Financial advisors
• Engineers
• Architects
• IT professionals
• Accountants
• Insurance brokers
• Professional trustees

How much will I be able to claim?

If you have suffered financially because of poor professional advice you must be able to demonstrate that the loss came about directly because of the professional’s negligent actions. The damages you receive will normally be assessed from the date that the breach of duty of care occurred. While in some cases the loss you have suffered may be clear to see, in some cases it could be more complex, for example if it involves a lost opportunity rather than a financial loss. In any case, you can only claim for reasonably foreseeable losses.

How Quickly Must I Make My Professional Negligence

If you will be issuing court proceedings, there are time limits which must be adhered to. Usually, this is 6 years from the date on which the negligent advice was given, however in some cases this may be extended if the negligence only became apparent later. In such cases, the limitation period stands at 3 years from the date on which the facts came to light which could result in a claim. 15 years is the long stop date within which any professional negligence claim must be made.