Using a professional negligence solicitor

Professional negligence occurs when a professional fails to exercise the requisite standard of care and skill when performing their professional duties. This can occur when a professional gives incorrect advice or makes a mistake whilst providing a service.

To be professional negligence, the mistake must be one which no reasonably competent professional should have made, and it must have caused the client a financial disadvantage. For example, if a solicitor missed certain time limits in litigation and this caused the litigation to fail and their client suffered financially, this would be professional negligence.

How can a professional negligence solicitor help?

A professional negligence solicitor can help you bring or defend a claim against a professional in the civil courts. Such solicitors specialise in claims brought against various types of professionals. For example, a professional negligence solicitor can help with claims in relation to:

  • Medical professionals (i.e. doctors and surgeons)
  • Accountants and financial advisors
  • Estate agents
  • Architects and surveyors
  • Legal professionals (i.e. solicitors and barristers)

Professional negligence falls under the branch of tort law, a part of civil law. The claimant therefore has to prove their case on the balance of probabilities. The concept of reasonableness comes into play; essentially, the claimant must prove (amongst other things) that the professional did not act in a manner that a reasonable, competent professional exercising reasonable care and skill would have done.

Proving this may involve the court hearing impartial opinion from experts working in the same field as the defendant professional. It is a notoriously difficult area of law and thus almost all cases will require an experienced professional negligence solicitor to establish your case before a court.

How can I pay for the case?

The courts try to encourage professional negligence claims to be settled through negotiation or mediation rather than through litigation in court. There is a pre-action protocol for this reason, which both parties to a claim must follow. It encourages an exchange of information to try and determine if the professional negligence did in fact cause the financial loss.

Both parties must follow the pre-action protocol if they do not want to suffer cost penalties if the claim does make it to court.

There are various ways to fund a professional negligence case:

  • If you are a claimant, a professional negligence solicitor may be able to provide you with a conditional fee agreement. If you contact a solicitor, they will be able to discuss funding options in more detail. It is important to clarify what costs will be payable when, as you generally still have to cover some costs
  • If you are a defendant, you will likely have professional indemnity insurance which should cover the costs of defending the case

However, your insurer may not cover the costs of litigation if the matter falls outside the scope of the insurance policy.

For more of your questions answered, see our FAQ page on professional negligence.

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