What is professional negligence?

 

Professional Negligence

If you have lost out financially as a result of poor advice or sub standard services from a qualified professional you may have a right to claim compensation for professional negligence.

Professionals are legally liable if they fail to provide their services with “reasonable skill and care”. Claims for compensation for professional negligence can be made against:

Accountants

Architects

Barristers

Engineers

Financial advisers

Insurance Brokers

Solicitors

Surveyors

Tax consultants

To prove the duty to provide a service with “reasonable skill and care” has been breached the test is whether the professional has shown the amount of competence associated with the proper discharge of the duties of that profession. What is reasonable care is determined by the court not the profession but regard is paid to the practises of the professions. If there is no uniform practise then the court will be reluctant to find a breach unless it can be shown that no responsible body of that profession would have acted in the way the professional acted (or no responsible body would have failed to act if it is alleged there was an omission to act).

If there has been a breach of duty then it is also necessary to prove that your financial loss came about as a direct result of that breach. You can only receive compensation for losses that were reasonably foreseeable as a result of the breach.

Consequently we will advise you on the:

  • existence of a duty of care
  • scope of that duty
  • quality of the advice that is given by the professional
  • issue of causation
  • duty to mitigate, and;
  • measure of compensation

You must follow certain procedures when making a claim for compensation for professional negligence, otherwise cost penalties can be imposed by the court or in serious cases of unreasonable conduct of the claim your case could be struck out. Following the correct procedure involves co-operating with the defendant and his or her legal representatives in an attempt to settle the case without going to trial.

These procedures are set out in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 1998. The rules require that a letter of claim is sent setting out the factual and legal basis of the claim to the negligent professional.

The Letter of Claim should include the following:

  • A summary of the case in chronological order
  • The allegations of breach made against the professional
  • Confirmation of whether an expert has been appointed
  • Details of the losses claimed

The professional has 21 days to acknowledge receipt of the letter and 3 months to investigate the matter and respond formally.

If no settlement is reached then you may take your case to court. Most professional negligence claims are heard in the county court with the exception being high-value and complex cases which may go to the High Court.