At some point, we all need to rely on solicitors to help with various stages and events in our lives. Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling a house, starting a business, having a will written or need professional legal advice following a problem at work or an accident, solicitors and other legal professionals are vital in helping you ensure all the legal formalities are in check.
When you hire a solicitor, the last thing you anticipate is that they will be negligent. Unfortunately, solicitors and other professionals do not always get it right.
If a solicitor has let you down by missing deadlines, incorrectly valuing your claim, failing to collect all the evidence, or has given you inaccurate advice, you may have a professional negligence claim. The general emphasis should be to try and put you back into the position you should have been in but for the negligence. It is important to remember that unusual advice is not necessarily negligence, it has to be a clear and obvious error – no other professional in the same circumstances would have acted in the same way.
Missing critical deadlines
One of the most common types of solicitor negligence involves missed limitation dates. A limitation date refers to the amount of time an individual has to bring a legal claim from the date they suffered loss or harm. It is a solicitor’s job to ensure they serve the claim to the court in time. Every law firm should have strict measures in place to ensure that all the claims they are running are done so with the time limit in mind. However, good practice processes such as these are not always put in place, or adhered to.
The 1980 Limitation Act sets the time limits applicable to each type of legal claim, including making a claim for compensation. Although on some rare occasions the court will extend time limits, as a general rule of thumb, civil claims must be served within six years, whilst personal injury claims should be made within three years from the date of the injury or the diagnosis of the injury, or up to the age of 21 years old for matters involving children. Professional negligence and solicitor negligence fall under civil claims, meaning that firms of solicitors will have to serve these types of claim within six years. An exception is three years from when you knew of the claim, or were on reasonable notice of it.
It is a solicitor’s duty to ensure that a client is advised on the progress of their case throughout the claim, and to ensure that all the necessary documents needed for court proceedings are submitted in time. This entails preparing all the documents in a timely manner, as well as responding to correspondence relating to the claim promptly, and disclosing necessary information as it is required.
Failure to do any of these essential things is likely to have adverse impacts on the claim, and at the very worst it could cause the claim to collapse. If your claim has been detrimentally effected because of a missed time limit by a solicitor, you may have a claim for professional negligence.
A vital part of a solicitor’s role is the valuation of the claim. Whatever the claim entails, it is essential that a solicitor takes everything into account, including its viability, all economic considerations and any potential risks which may affect the valuation. If a solicitor undervalues a claim, this may leave the client with less than they rightly deserve, or it could mean that the claim is terminated altogether.
Whilst we appreciate you may be dissatisfied with the outcome of your claim, it is not always the case that it has been under-valued, or under-settled. For this to be the case, there must be a significant difference between what was achieved, and what would have been achieved had the claim been valued correctly. The courts consideration in determining whether there was negligence would be what a reasonably competent solicitor would have done in the same circumstances.
Examples of a solicitor being negligent in their valuation might include where they have failed to take into consideration all the losses suffered, where they have used the wrong means of calculation, where they have ignored evidence, or where they have made an error in the figures. Any one of these things could have a significant impact on the overall valuation of the case.
Solicitors must obtain all the necessary evidence to ensure the claims they are dealing with stand the best chance of succeeding. When preparing a case against the defendant, a solicitor must gather the evidence supporting the claimant’s argument, which may include witness statements and expert evidence. For example if the case involves medical negligence, the solicitor must instruct a medical expert to give comments on the individual case. Failing to do this may seriously hinder chances of success, or may limit the compensation awarded.
Missing evidence may refer to failing to make proper enquiries and obtaining evidence demonstrating loss of earnings, failure to obtain medical records, failing to contact witnesses, or failure to obtain evidence from the correct expert, or not getting it at all.
When you select to use the services of a solicitor, you expect their professional training, expertise and experience to be at an adequate level which should help you get the best outcome possible. When the advice you receive from a solicitor falls short of the required standard, your claim may suffer, or even fail.
Failure to correctly advise on key points of law and misinterpreting information may mean your solicitor has been negligent. To show this, it must be proven that the solicitor in question was providing advice that you would be expected to rely on, perhaps in written form such as a letter, that the advice was wrong, and proof that you suffered financial harm as a result.
Our professional negligence team has vast experience in dealing with the above solicitor negligence actions, as well as claims against other types of legal professionals such as barristers.
There are many other ways your solicitor could have been negligent. We have vast experience in dealing with the following areas:
- Property or estates
- Clinical negligence and personal injury under valuations
- Faulty contract drafting
- Employment law negligence
If you feel that your solicitor has failed to exercise the necessary care and skill in handling your matter, regarding one of the aforementioned areas of law or something different, then you may have a professional negligence claim against them.
What can I claim?
Each claim is different depending on the circumstances of the negligence. As a general rule, your compensation level will at least be equivalent to putting you back in the position had the negligence not happened.
What time limits are in place?
To make a claim for solicitor professional negligence, you must be in time, which is known as the ‘professional negligence limitation period’.
Generally, if your solicitor has failed to perform to the professional standards required of them, and you have suffered damage or loss as a result, you have six years from the date of the negligence occurring.
There can be exceptions to this time limit, for example if you were not aware of the negligence until a later date. However it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible to avoid any issues with limitation dates.
How is the claim funded?
Our professional negligence lawyers are happy to discuss fee options and advise clients under a wide range of fee structures including working under:
- an existing legal expenses insurance
- a fixed fee
- traditional hourly rate retainers
- a “No Win, No Fee” basis.
The Next Steps
If you have been let down by an expert, wish to find out more or to start your professional negligence compensation claim please call our professional negligence lawyers on Freephone 0808 164 0808 or contact us online.